The DeMatha Stagline

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The DeMatha Stagline

The DeMatha Stagline

Students show off some of the awards the brought back to Hyattsville from Myrtle Beach on the 2023 Music Trip.
Music Trip 2024
April 15, 2024

Is Bilal Coulibaly the future of the Washington Wizards?

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When the Washington Wizards traded the 8th overall pick and two second-round picks to the Indiana Pacers to acquire rookie wing Bilal Coulibaly, the team and the whole DMV area had high hopes and expectations for the 19-year-old LNB Pro A star.

Coulibaly was born on July 26th, 2004 in Saint-Cloud, France. He first picked up a basketball at eight years old, and he played for his first basketball team on the Levallois Sporting Club Basket at 13. Coming out of the LNB Pro A, Coulibaly played with the young “alien” Victor Wembanyama. Both players became sought-after prospects in France, as they were both projected to be in the lottery in the supposedly stacked 2023 draft. However, despite being highly-touted prospects on the same team, they were viewed very differently.

While Wemby was regarded as the most hyped prospect since Lebron James, Coulibaly was described as a project that would need time to develop. When asked to voice his thoughts on what he thought Coulibaly would be coming out of the draft, sophomore Jesse Kliman said, “I thought that he was a really raw prospect, and honestly I thought he was going to be a bust.”

Many scouts from different organizations said that Bilal Coulibaly’s main draws were his physical tools, his disruptive defense abilities on and off the ball, his wing size, his explosiveness, and his ability to get to the rim. In addition, Coulibaly also had multiple growth spurts. From age 15 to 17 he grew from 5-6 to 6-3. By draft time, he had grown to 6-6 with a 7-2 wingspan. Currently, reports are saying he has grown to 6-8 with a 7-3 wingspan. Member of the DeMatha community Jeremy Juste said, “I think Bilal is a very raw but versatile type of player.” One scout at the NBA summer league said, “He has all the tools to be a really good defender. He can make an open shot, and he’s great in transition.” Coulibaly already has had multiple highlight plays; one being when he dunked on forward Paul Reed of the Philadelphia 76ers. In his post-game press conference, Coulibaly summarized the play by saying,”I saw Paul Reed… his feet were not in position to play good defense. So I was like, yeah, I got to drive it and I was wide open, I said yeah, I’ll dunk it!”

Coulibaly isn’t without his flaws, however. A scout working with the NBA summer league team in another interview said, “The offensive part, he’s got a ways to go, and I don’t think the Wizards should be expecting much immediately as far as doing anything with the ball.” Draft reports from scouts said Bilal would need to bulk up to not be bullied by bigger wings. They said that he also has problems when the game is slowing down, that he can be too passive on offense, and his ball handling is loose. When asked what Couibaly needed to improve on, sophomore Finn Wainwright said, “I think Bilal needs to improve with his 3-point shooting and his IQ, which is common for young players.” Bilal this season is shooting 36.3% from 3.24% in the midrange area, and 33% on jump shots. 

In the summer league, Coulibaly averaged 12.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2.2 blocks, and 0.5 steals per game on 40/18/68 shooting splits. A scout from the summer league said, “He’s going to play off the ball. He’s probably initially going to be a spot-up guy, a 3-and-D type wing, which is fine.” Coulibaly’s biggest play during the summer league was when he hit a stepback jumper to seal the game 103-98 victory against the Boston Celtics. After he made the shot, Coulibaly told his summer league coach Landon Tatum that he’s a “clutch player.” Landon Tatum in another interview said, “He’s got a lot of confidence, and I love that about him… when you step on the floor every single night, if you don’t have that, you’re done.”

Fifty-six games into his rookie season, Coulibaly has averaged 8.3 points, 4.1 rebounds 1.7 assists, and 0.8 Stocks (blocks and steals combined) on 44/36/70 splits. In the five games he’s started, Coulibaly has averaged 11 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.8 Stocks on 38/24/87 splits. In one of these starts against the Boston Celtics, Coulibaly had a career-high 21 points. 

Bilal Coulibaly isn’t top ten in the NBA Rookie of the Year rankings so far, but he was in the Rising Stars game on All-Star Weekend, where he scored 4 points in 7 minutes. Coulibaly spoke on this experience by saying, “I’m just trying to show, yeah, I can play. I’m one of them ones. I’m just trying to show that.” Bilal is top ten in rebounds, steals, and blocks among rookies. He is also in the top 15 in both points in assists among rookies. Coulibably’s former teammate Victor Wembanyama said, “By now, everyone knows he deserves to be in the top 10. But not enough to realize he deserves to be in the top 5.”

Bilal Coulibaly overall has been an interesting prospect so far this season. People still believe that Coulibaly has come ahead of schedule according to what previous scouts have believed. General Manager Will Dawkins in another interview said, “We’ll take the guy who we think will be the best long-term player, the best long-term fit. And with him, it’s going to take a little while, and we know that.” Despite this belief, media officials and even other players have already seen the potential coming from Coulibably. In a postgame interview following a game against Coulibably, superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo said, “He had very, very good moments. He played extremely hard. He was guarding Dame; he wasn’t scared of the moment. He had a couple of backdoor cuts, a couple of dunks, transition baskets I remember.”

When talking about how Bilal has played to his expectations, junoir Malachi Wilson, said, “I think he’s played pretty decently… I think he can be more of an asset to the team though overall; I feel like we can get more out of him than we are already getting.” Coulibaly himself feels like he still has a long way to go. He spoke about that by saying, “I have a lot of goals in the league, in my life. My first year, I just want to be better every day.” Coublibaly still has plenty of years in the league to continue to improve and live up to the draft comparisons he received, including names like OG Anunoby, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard. Malachi Wilson said, “He has a lot of potential as a player… and he can [eventually] be an MVP.” Bilal Coulibaly is a player who has gotten many Wizards fans hyped up about their rebuild, and the fans of D.C hope that he turns out a star.

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