Around the World: Bilal Coulibaly
Bilal Coulibaly has become one international prospect to keep an eye on for the 2023 NBA Draft
Executives and scouts around the NBA have had their eye on a talented prospect playing this year for the Metropolitans 92.
No, not just THAT one.
While the Draft world has been drooling over the awesome talents of Victor Wembanyama this year, another international prospect has started to generate buzz. That player is Bilal Coulibaly.
During the Victor Wembanyama experience, Coulibaly continued to generate the curiosity of scouts throughout the year. Listed at 6’6”, Coulibaly glides around the court like a butterfly. His intriguing raw tools are too impressive to ignore, especially for a prospect who won’t turn 19 years old until July.
Coulibaly has spent time playing for both the junior and senior teams for the Metropolitans 92 this year. After producing at an impressive rate for the junior club, Coulibaly has gotten to get some extended playing time with the senior team and teammate Victor Wembanyama.
At first, Coulibaly looked to be an exciting long-term project to monitor moving forward. But that conversation has quickly shifted. Now, Coulibaly looks like a name that could be on the radar for front offices when it comes to the 2023 NBA Draft. Bilal has played in 17 games with the senior club, averaging about 14.3 minutes per game. But the flashes he’s shown, especially with the junior club, will have you foaming at the mouth.
Stats while playing in LNB Espoirs
16 Games | 16 Starts | 32.1 MIN
21.8 PTS | 6.4 REB | 2.5 AST | 2.5 STL
53.0 FG% | 32.4 3p% | 76.6 FT%
14.5 FGA | 4.2 3PA | 6.6 FTA
Stats while playing in Jeep Elite
17 Games | 1 Start | 14.3 MIN
3.4 PTS | 2.2 REB | 0.5 AST | 0.8 STL
61.1 FG% | 60.0 3P% | 47.4 FT%
2.1 FGA | 0.5 3PA | 1.1 FTA
It’s important to understand that in all of these clips, you’re going to see two versions of competition. On one hand, Bilal Coulibaly looks like a man amongst boys while playing at the lower level. That’s part of the reason why he was called up to the big club, due to his impressive play at the lower level.
Now before you get too excited, let me be the first to say that Coulibaly definitely has some rawness to his game. He’s a ball of clay that is just waiting to get molded by a strong developmental staff. That being said, the flashes are awesome.
The athleticism and desire to finish around the basket will leave you drooling. At 6’6”, Coulibaly glides around the court. His bread and butter is the Eurostep, something he will bring out frequently. Here’s a great look at just how “slippery” Coulibaly can be with a head of steam.
CHANGE OF GEARS
You’re going to read this sentence a lot throughout this piece, so let me hit you with the first reminder. This is an 18-year-old prospect who won’t be turning 19 until after the NBA Summer League has concluded. If Coulibaly decides to keep his name in this year’s class, he will have plenty of front offices intrigued with his long-term potential.
As mentioned before, Coulibaly at one point looked like a fascinating long-term project to monitor moving forward. That was until the flashes started to pop like firecrackers on the Fourth of July. Now, Coulibaly looks like a project that teams want to get their hands on immediately. Time will tell if he could become a stash candidate, but there’s some serious upside on both sides of the ball.
When Coulibaly has momentum off the bounce, he can shift directions in a hurry. Great little example here, as you can see just how smooth he can get when changing directions at 6’6”.
GO TO WORK
This play might look a little “basic” to some, but it caught my attention for a number of different reasons. When you’re evaluating a young prospect overseas, especially one with raw untapped potential, I think it’s important to get a grasp of their recognition on both sides of the ball.
Here’s Coulibaly playing at the lower level, and you’ll notice on tape just how much confidence is oozing through his body when he’s playing. The game moves more slowly, and Coulibaly reads the defense almost a step ahead on a regular basis. Coulibaly gathers himself before hitting his defender with a quick hesitation before attacking and finishing for an impressive bucket.
There are numerous times on tape in which Coulibaly shows some impressive flashes when it comes to his ball handling. Sure, we can nitpick it and say that he can get a little wide with his handles. For an 18-year-old wing, I think it’s still more important to see the creativity and confidence he has in his craft.
Coulibaly slithers through this pick-and-roll sequence before going right at the next line of defense for a tough finish.
The patience and feel for the game pops on tape for Bilal. You can see why he put up such impressive numbers at the lower level. He has the burst to blow by defenders without even using the after-burners. Coulibaly shows some maturity here, allowing the defense to set before seeing his opening and exploding for an easy slam.
YOU HAVE MY ATTENTION
I love this sequence from Bilal Coulibaly for a number of reasons. First, we get a great hesitation to set up the attack. The moment the defender reaches, Bilal explodes; notice just how much ground he covers in a hurry. It looks as if Coulibaly is going to go up and try to draw contact on the last line of defense. That’s until he hits the help defender with a beautifully timed Euro before stepping through and finishing on the other side of the rim.
REWIND THAT PLEASE
This is where you start to just simply fall in love with the film dive. Coulibaly LOVES the Euro. There’s a chance that he’s trying to reinvent the move entirely. It’s something that is really unique to see for a player with his combination of athleticism and that size. Make no mistake about it, Coulibaly can FLAT OUT GET UP and soar above the rim. But there’s some developing footwork to his game that is quickly trending in an exciting territory.
OFF THE BOUNCE (3 Clips)
There are three clips in this sequence, and I think they show a fantastic demonstration of the creativity that the 18-year-old already has developing in his arsenal. All three of these clips are going to involve Coulibaly starting off coming across the perimeter, moving to his right with the ball in his dominant hand.
In the first clip, Coulibaly is going to come off a screen before pivoting and looking to use a re-screen. That’s before he stops on a dime and turns to come around and take a wide-open pull-up jumper.
The second clip has a similar action, except Coulibaly reads the defense and notices he has a wide-open window to attack. Once he attacks, he finishes with contact for a tough two.
In the third and final clip, Coulibaly is going to get an initial screen before saying “get the hell out of my way.”
Throughout my film dive, I found myself intrigued by the offensive scoring ability of Coulibaly. But I did get to a point where I said to myself: “alright, I get it, athletic, good size, dunk city…what else we got?”
Well. I was pleasantly surprised to see the rest of the tools. One area that got me in my feelings was the flashes of playmaking ability. Coulibaly has the vision to develop into a more versatile threat on the perimeter. He understands timing and shows some strong feel when he’s under control.
This was one of my favorite sequences to watch of Coulibaly. After the initial attack, Coulibaly regroups on the wing and looks to exploit the defense on his next drive. That’s when we see a gorgeous jump pass for a wide-open finish.
PICK AND ROLL
This is the part of the film where I found Coulibaly just continuing to check the necessary boxes to get me excited about his future development. As evaluators, we can all get guilty of trying to find the negatives with a player. But the harsh truth is that we need to realize the bigger picture here. Is an NBA team looking to draft Coulibaly in 2023 with the goal of playing him right away? Highly unlikely.
NBA scouts and executives are always looking at the bigger picture. They are trying to project what a player could develop into three years down the road. What type of player is he going to be when it’s time for his second or third contract?
With an 18-year-old international talent like Bilal, you want to see the flashes pop and notice if they start to become more consistent. Even if it’s playing at a lower level, Bilal shows the necessary flashes to get intrigued with. Great job here in the pick and roll by demonstrating patience and allowing this angle to fully develop before throwing a gorgeous dime.
PLAYMAKING (3 Clips)
I love when you get various examples of vision developing from a young talent. The best part about all of these clips is that it’s Bilal showcasing his talent while playing for the senior team. You get to see a little bit of everything from Bilal. The first clip showcases some great vision ahead of the floor in transition, where Coulibaly hits his man in stride.
Second, we get Coulibaly in the pick-and-roll with an alien. I love that Bilal takes the extra dribble after the pick is set to create a better angle and allow Victor to get prepared for the pass.
Finally, I think a lot of young players might look to attack in different ways in the last clip. Some might be eager to let it fly from deep. Others with Bilal’s athleticism and size might consider this a potential poster opportunity. Instead, Bilal attacks the defender before reading the defense and dumping it off to his teammate for the easy two.
This was an area of Bilal Coulibaly’s game that I was NOT expecting to get so excited about. There’s a bundle of defensive sequences that shows some exciting stuff brewing in the kitchen when it comes to the potential for Coulibaly on the defensive side of the ball.
Coulibaly already has great size at 6’6” which pairs beautifully with his athleticism and quickness. He also is lengthy, with a reported 7’3” wingspan. But the recognition and awareness on the defensive side of the ball continued to jump out at me, ESPECIALLY FOR AN 18-YEAR-OLD KID.
The second clip is one I love, as it shows Coulibaly reading the floor as a help defender. He reads this play beautifully before showing his range to disrupt the lob attempt. The following clip could be a systematic sequence, but I think it also shows some great anticipation and communication from a young talent. Coulibaly slides down from the corner to help block off a drive before pointing to his teammate to take the corner.
The final clip should get everyone excited. We see a great combination of footwork flashes on the defensive side of the ball. That’s followed up with some great patience by Coulibaly before an emphatic rejection that would make Dikembe Mutombo proud.
Bilal Coulibaly has become a name that keeps buzzing when it comes to the international class for the 2023 NBA Draft. The international class has been one that is rich with potential compared to production. For a player that has the player profile of Coulibaly, it will be crucial to monitor his name over the next couple of months. While NBA fans are always dreading the idea of a “draft and stash” prospect, this one might need special consideration. Coulibaly has the tools; it’s only a matter of time before they all come together and unlock a fascinating talent.
I’ve been a major fan of the tools specifically these last few months. NBA teams have began to lean toward length and fluidity much more as of late.
How high do you think he could go? Also, how high do you think he could go if he stays for the presumably weak 2024 draft?