The Las Vegas Summer League is in full swing, and three games are in the books for the Washington Wizards. Having won one, and lost two, the Wizards have consistently struggled offensively in these games. However, one thing they can hang their hat on has been their pressure and playmaking on defense. The man leading the charge there is no other than rookie Bilal Coulibaly.
The 18-year-old Frenchman’s offensive game is still a work in progress. He, nevertheless showed flashes of his relentless rim attacks and passing chops. However, the area he has impressed the most has been the defensive end; namely his rim protection.
When watching the Wizards in these three games in Las Vegas, one of the most striking things that caught your eye immediately was Bilal Coulibaly’s length and wingspan. He may only be 6’6 with a slight frame, but the length of his arms jumps from the screen, helping him play even bigger than his size. He makes every inch of that 7-foot-2 wingspan felt on the court.
This wingspan, combined with his athleticism makes him an excellent defensive disruptor. He gets in the passing lanes, pokes balls, and challenges shots at the rim, making everything a little more difficult for the opposing team.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of his defense has been his rim protection. He already has five blocks in three games, recording at least one block every game for the Wizards. The versatility of his rim protection is Giannis Antetokounmpo-esque.
He had chase-down blocks in transition, a help-defense block from the weak side, and a last-line of defense block after a defensive rotation. In all these instances, his length, speed, and bounce catch attackers by surprise. He covers so much lateral and vertical ground in such a short amount of time, he can get his hands on the ball in the most unexpected attempts.
His defensive playmaking and rim protection are Bilal Coulibaly’s most NBA-ready skills. He projects to be an impact defender immediately, even as a rookie. He should be able to rack up steals and blocks early in his career.
Coulibaly will also grow stronger, maybe even taller. That will make him an even scarier defensive presence as he is more settled in the NBA.
Everything else will come later. How well he shoots the three, and how good he is as a ballhandler and playmaker are open questions. One thing that is not up for debate is how exciting Bilal Coulibaly’s defensive potential is.