The Washington Wizards have done a fantastic job this offseason to make the team younger and more dynamic. Losing players like Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis, and Monte Morris obviously hurt, but in return, the Wizards brought in a lot of exciting young players.
Not only are Bilal Coulibaly, Jordan Poole, Tristan Vukcevic, Patrick Baldwin Jr, and Ryan Rollins exciting and talented players, but their best years are also ahead of them. When we also take into consideration the Wizards’ existing young core of Johnny Davis, Deni Avdija, Corey Kispert, and Daniel Gafford, an interesting question comes to mind: who will be the best player on the Wizards in 5 years from now?
There is obviously a chance the Wizards’ best player is not currently on the team. It could be acquired via the draft, a trade, or free agency. Or it could still be Kyle Kuzma. However, considering the fact that Kuzma will be 33 years old in 2028, that seems unlikely. And it is almost impossible to predict what the additions to the roster will be in the next five years.
Therefore, we will focus on the players who are currently on the Wizards’ roster.
The Wizards have a surplus of rotation-level young players
It’s important to note that it’s difficult to project the development of young players. Every prospect develops at different speeds, and that improvement is not linear. Any young player can pop unexpectedly in any given year. Yet, we can still make projections on the data points we currently have.
Kispert is a valuable rotation player, but he is already 24 years old and due to his physical and athletic limitations, it is hard to see him as a much higher-level player than he already is.
Gafford is a good rotation-level center but it’s almost impossible for an offensively-limited center who is not defensively elite to be a team’s best player.
Avdija is still only 22 and has the building blocks to improve immensely. However, his shot hasn’t improved since coming into the league, limiting his upside. It’s hard to be a perimeter player with such a limited offensive skill set.
Rollins and Baldwin Jr are only in their second year, and they have both shown intriguing skills so far in the Summer League. Baldwin as a stretch four and Rollins as a scoring combo guard are valuable rotation pieces, but it’s hard to see either of them become star players.
Vukcevic is also an intriguing prospect with a high offensive upside. But, he has yet to play in an NBA game and he has athletic limitations on the defensive end which caps his potential as a player, especially as a center.
Coulibaly and Poole have the highest upside among the Wizards’ young players
This leaves Bilal Coulibaly, Jordan Poole, and Johny Davis as the remaining options for the Wizards’ best player in 5 years.
Davis conceptually fits the profile of a star due to his two-way potential as a scorer and defender. However, he hasn’t shown an ability to score efficiently or carry a team’s offense. His shot needs work and he is not athletic enough to create good shots, limiting his upside on that end. The improvement he needs to demonstrate is so large that one can’t expect it from him as of now.
So, the answer is between the 24-year-old Jordan Poole and the 18-year-old Bilal Coulibaly.
Poole has certainly played at quality starter level at times in his career and has the potential for more. If he improves his ballhandling and three-point shot, he has the ability to become the lead offensive engine for the Wizards. His defense will likely never get above an average-at-best level, but he needs to show a decent amount of improvement there to become a team’s best player.
At age 29, Poole will be in his prime and potentially the best offensive player on the Wizards. And that may be enough to make him the best overall player on the team.
The sky is the limit for Bilal Coulibaly
However, Bilal Coulibaly’s two-way upside towers over everyone else on the team. In July 2028, Coulibaly will only be 23 years old, still years before his prime. Yet, if he develops the way the Wizards are hoping he will, he easily has the potential to be this team’s star by then.
Coulibaly will almost immediately be an impactful defensive player. He makes defensive plays, protects the rim, and gets involved in help defense. When he gets stronger, he will presumably be an excellent one-on-defender too.
The swing skill for him will be on the offensive end, but he doesn’t have to be an elite offensive player to be the best player on the Wizards. If he can knock down open threes, run some pick & rolls, drive to the basket, and finish efficiently while maintaining his already-effective transition game, that will be more than enough.
If he does those things, Bilal Coulibaly will easily be the Wizards’ best player in 5 years. And for the young Frenchman, that seems rather achievable.