Bilal Coulibaly has finally played a regular-season NBA game. He finished the game against the Indiana Pacers with 3 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists in 23 minutes. His only bucket was a corner 3-point shot off a Corey Kispert pass with close to seven minutes left in the second quarter. He finished with three turnovers, which is to be expected from a rookie. He’s young and looking to make plays so he is going to make mistakes. He will learn to take care of the basketball when he gets more comfortable playing against the league competition.
The thing that stood out the most from Coulibaly’s debut was his rim protection, as he finished the game with three blocks. Daniel Gafford, who was in foul trouble for most of the night, and Kyle Kuzma each had two blocks, while Jordan Poole and Tyus Jones had one each. Coulibaly led the team tonight in that category, while impressively committing only one foul. Doing this while playing on the wing as a 6’6 rookie is incredibly exciting.
The defensive instincts are there for the 19-year-old as he’s already shown he can be a defensive anchor. He played with effort and discipline, not gambling to chase blocks.
It’s pretty evident that Coulibaly makes an impact when he’s in the game and coach Wes Unseld Jr. needs to make a decision about his playing time going forward. This current Wizards roster does not have a lot of defenders so Coulibaly can make his impact on that side of the ball right away.
As the season progresses, it probably wouldn’t be possible for Coulibaly to start at a forward position because Kyle Kuzma and Deni Avdija occupy both spots. If Unseld Jr. can find Coulibaly minutes at the shooting guard position, either playing alongside or instead of Poole, that can be an intriguing option going forward.
That would leave other guards like Delon Wright, Johnny Davis, and Landry Shamet in deeper bench roles. However, the impact Coulibaly can make on the defensive end is more important right now, especially after the atrocious defensive game the Wizards put on, allowing 143 points to the Pacers. They allowed 110 points after three quarters while scoring 96 points themselves. The offense is not the problem for Washington as they shot 46% from the field and ended up scoring 120 points.
However, unless they solve their defensive woes, Washington will not be a competitive team. And it’s clear that they need Bilal Coulibaly to help do that.