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Bilal Coulibaly Has Arrived on the NBA Stage

Washington Wizards guard Bilal Coulibaly (0) dribbles the ball against the Philadelphia 76ers during the fourth quarter at Wells Fargo Center.

The last week for Washington Wizards fans has been one of strife and woe. The team finds themselves on a four-game slide, with one of their losses coming in an In-Season Tournament game. The Wizards have floundered away three largely winnable games, which will leave a bad taste around the organization and fanbase. Moving away from the bleak present and into the future, fans will rejoice in the rookie revelation. Looking over the last handful of games, it is fair to say that Bilal Coulibaly has arrived on the NBA stage.

Bilal Coulibaly Has Arrived on the NBA Stage

Let’s Talk About Stocks

Not the kind found on Wall Street, but rather the phrase made popular by Bill Simmons. “Stocks” refers to the combined steals and blocks a player accumulates. Coming into the season, Coulibaly was projected to be a primarily defensive wing in his rookie season. His physical tools, along with a well-documented, uncommon poise, made this seem like a clear prediction. However, few predicted that Coulibaly would be so successful right off the bat. The rookie is averaging 1.0 SPG and 0.8 BPG, equating to 1.8 “stocks” each night.

His steals numbers place him within the top 23 shooting guards in the league, and his 0.8 BPG is good enough for a top-three ranking. This clip of Coulibaly’s defensive work against the Indiana Pacers shows why many see him as a future defensive star. In the first play, Coulibaly picks up on the perimeter and manages to fight through a screen to stay in the play before recovering to chase down the shot attempt. In the second, we see the off-ball instincts that the Wizard’s coaches will hope to fine-tune. Coulibaly comes from the help side, timing his shift so well that Bennedict Mathurin does not have time to adjust and kick to the weak corner. Coulibaly is one of the few defensive bright spots for a team that allows the third most points per contest in the league.

Answering Questions About His Jumper

The major questions surrounding Coulibaly came in regard to his shooting. He played as more of a slasher in the French league, something people saw as continuing in the NBA. However, from the beginning of the season, he has let it fly from the outside. Early on, this resulted in a 1-6 night versus the Boston Celtics and a 1-4 night against the Atlanta Hawks. But recently, things have started clicking for the rookie. Going off the raw numbers, Coulibaly’s eFG% is 64.6%, and his 3P% is 47.1%. More specifically, Coulibaly is a cumulative 11 for 17 from behind the arc over the last five games, an outstanding 64.7%.

The young Frenchman is not a volume shooter from the outside, but how he makes these shots is encouraging. The base of his jumper is stable and consistent, while the upward mechanics look repeatable through each attempt. The best example comes from Coulibaly’s breakout game against the Brooklyn Nets. Watch here how Coulibaly’s form remains constant on his way to a 20-point game where he shot 4-7 from three. There is room to grow in fluidity and speed, but the initial signs are encouraging.

Stuffing the Stat Sheet

Coulibaly is playing his rookie season alongside another Wizard who may provide him with an initial blueprint, Deni Avdija. Avdija is posting an impressive stat line of 12.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 3.9 APG while accounting for 1.6 stocks. It is fair to say that he affects all parts of the game when he’s on the court. Much like Avdija, Coulibaly projects as a wing who can stuff stat sheet on both ends of the floor. The rookie currently posts 8.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG, and 1.8 APG. These numbers may not be immediately eye-popping, but when measured up with his defensive stats, they paint an already impressive picture.

All signs point to Coulibaly continuing to grow as a player for years to come. He already makes the correct read with regularity while on the floor. Around the organization, people seem enthralled with his maturity and willingness to play within the team. In a season that may already be doomed, Wizard’s fans will rejoice that Bilal Coulibaly has arrived as all they were promised and more.


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