It appears that the honeymoon phase between Washington Wizards fans and their new rebuild may be coming to a close. Over the summer, fans were absolutely elated when a new look front office was brought in to emphasize youth and development. The days of chasing the eighth seed and mediocrity were finally over, or so it appeared. A love fest between fans and newly acquired guard, Jordan Poole and first round pick, Bilal Coulibaly was the hot topic of the offseason.
With the season on the horizon and training camp just a few days away, Wizards fans were excited to hear from both the front office and head coach, Wes Unseld Jr. this past week to see how they will approach this upcoming season.
As expected, during both press conferences, one of the players who came up the most was BIlal Coulibaly. The 19 year old wing from France comes in as one of the youngest players in the league, and with that comes alot of high value basketball traits but also a fair amount of learning that still needs to be done.
However, with a young, rebuilding roster like the one that the Wizards currently have, you would think that a player such as Coulibaly will have all the chances in the world to go out and play, make mistakes and learn about the NBA game by actually being on the court. It does not appear right now that the Wizards will be fighting for playoff contention, so you would think Bilal will have every opportunity to go play and grow.
The front office and coaching staff on the Wizards do not see eye to eye on Coulibaly
This notion was for the most part confirmed by current GM, Will Dawkins during the opening presser on Tuesday when he stated, “He’s got a competitiveness on the defensive end that will get him on the floor right away.” This quote was music to fans ears, as the hope that Bilal would see a lot of playing time was all but confirmed. Until it wasn’t.
The reason for the lack of confirmation is because, just a day later, we saw the opening presser for Head Coach, Wes Unseld Jr. When asked about Bilal and the potential for him to spend both time with the Wiz and time with the (G-League) Go-Go, Unseld said, “I think its going to be both. All of our guys are going to have an opportunity.”
Now, he also did go on to say that at some point you will need young guys to contribute. But it does not appear based on this presser that right now Unseld Jr. has the same idea and strategies as the front office. G-league development is very important and has helped a lot of players grow and become better. But typically top ten picks do not find themselves being sent down unless there team is a playoff contender, and the minutes just aren’t there. But that is not the case with the Wizards.
So, with the idea coming from the presser that Will Dawkins and co. want to see Coulibaly on the court, yet Unseld Jr. is giving everyone an opportunity, this will be a good first test for the new front office.
How serious are they about this topic? If we are twenty games in and Coulibaly has fifteen DNPs will Dawkins fire Unseld? Or is he pulling a trick out of Tommy Sheppard’s hat and is just voicing what the media wants to hear?
Wes Unseld Jr. needs to get back on track with Wizards leadership if he wants to stay
Wes Unseld Jr. has had a rollercoaster of a ride since becoming the head coach of the Washington Wizards, to say the least. So, he may believe he is coaching for his job and has to win games. But with the front office preaching what they have been preaching, this will be a good test if they are serious about their ideologies.
Best case scenario is Winger and Dawkins get Wes on the same page as them, and Bilal is able to go out and play and play consistently. However, if things do not go as planned, and we are seeing a lot of Landry Shamet and Danilo Gallinari instead of Coulibaly, the handling of Unseld Jr.’s job will be a true test as to how serious this front office is.
It is understood that some of these veteran players such as Shamet, Gallinari, Mike Muscala and Delon Wright will need playing time in order to be showcased for potential trades, but it should not come at the cost of preventing Bilal Coulibaly from seeing the floor.
Wes Unseld Jr. should be on the hot seat. His time in DC has not been great, although, much of their success, or lack thereof, has been out of his hands. He has no ties to the new front office and has not won many games since being here. So, if he is going to go out and prioritize veteran play over youth, there is no real reason to keep him around.
Michael Winger and Will Dawkins have been adamant since arriving that they do not want to skip any steps within this rebuild, and they want to build things up properly. Well, there first test is here. You have a teenage wing who needs to learn as he goes, not ride the bench or be sent down. He needs all the opportunities he can get to help jump start his NBA development.
The hope will still be that the Washington Wizards’ front office and Wes Unseld Jr. are on the same page or can get on the same page, and Bilal Coulibaly will see the floor. But if he does not, and Unseld jr. continues to go veteran heavy, I think we will see just how serious (or unserious) the front offices plan is.