In their preseason game, the Washington Wizards defeated the Charlotte Hornets 98-92. The game was sloppy and difficult to watch throughout as the teams combined for 38 turnovers, 35.9% shooting from the field, and 21.1% from three. The Wizards struggled on both ends of the floor for the first 42 minutes of the game before going on a 16-0 run in the late fourth quarter to secure the victory. Despite the underwhelming performance from the Wizards, there was one player who continued to shine brightly: the 19-year-old rookie Bilal Coulibaly.
The 7th overall pick from France got his second straight start and played 28 minutes, the most of anyone in the game. He didn’t disappoint with his performance, finishing the game with 12 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 steals, and a block while hitting 5/8 from the field and 2/3 from downtown. This was extremely encouraging from the youngster as he showed he could thrive against NBA competition.
We already knew about Coulibaly’s defensive chops. He was excellent on that end once again, getting into passing lanes, disrupting ball handlers with his long arms, and blocking a dunk attempt on an impressive help-defense play.
What was more impressive about last night’s performance was his offensive production. He had more on-ball reps that resulted in self-created shots, and the results were positive. Coulibaly hit multiple off-the-dribble midrangers and a three-pointer while creating decent separation from his defender. His ability to get to his spot and get his shot off was beyond his years. His shooting form and confidence were evident as he showed he could be trusted with the ball more throughout the season.
Last night was another proof that the Wizards need to give Coulibaly all he can handle right away. He should continue to start, play as many minutes as he can, and get as many on-ball reps on both ends of the floor as he can handle. The pace in which Coulibaly is improving as a basketball player is spectacular and the Wizards need to take advantage of that and see how high his ceiling is.
The 2023-24 season for the Washington Wizards needs to be all about Bilal Coulibaly. He is the future of the franchise. And early preseason signs indicate that he might be the present too.