Washington Wizards: Bilal Coulibaly’s best role is as a point-forward

Bilal Coulibaly of the Washington Wizards (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Bilal Coulibaly of the Washington Wizards (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

The Washington Wizards’ future is bright. Their 7th overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, Bilal Coulibaly has a higher upside than any prospects they had in the last decade. However, the 18-year-old Frenchman is still raw and needs time and patience to fully reach his limitless potential. The Wizards need to trust him with the ball and let him make mistakes in a point-forward role.

Coulibaly is certainly not ready to contribute to winning basketball as an on-ball creator. And that is completely fine. That’s why the Wizards have Tyus Jones, Jordan Poole, and Kyle Kuzma on the team to take on that responsibility.

However, Coulibaly needs to have the opportunity to explore the studio space, perhaps running the offense when bench units are in. This would aid his offensive improvement and help Washington see what he is capable of.

As a 6’6 swingman with a long wingspan, Coulibaly plays bigger than his size. He can guard multiple positions and protect the rim defensively. Since he is such a good shot blocker, it makes sense to keep him close to the basket. That can be achieved if he could defend small forwards or power forwards instead of guards.

This opens the way for a point-forward role for Coulibaly. He can play next to other perimeter players who can defend guards on the other team while providing floor spacing on the other end. If you surround Coulibaly with enough shooting, his relentless attacking and solid court vision would be unlocked. Playing him next to Jordan Poole, Patrick Baldwin Jr, and Corey Kispert as much as possible will help his development.

This is a similar role to the one Giannis Antetokounmpo plays in Milwaukee. Obviously, Coulibaly is not on the elite physical and athletic level the Greek Freak is yet, but if this experiment were to succeed, that is an excellent blueprint to follow for Coulibaly and Washington.

Antetokounmpo almost plays as a free safety defensively, roaming the backline to protect the rim, while having more on-ball duties on the offensive end. This creates a matchup nightmare for the opponent as having a 6’11 ball-handler, driver, and shot-creator is impossible to deal with.

The Washington Wizards should prepare Coulibaly for that role starting next season. Nobody is Giannis Antetokounmpo, and more likely than not Coulibaly is not going to reach the same heights, but the Wizards need to do everything they can to optimize the massive potential on their hands.

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