The Washington Wizards rookie Bilal Coulibaly has caught the NBA world by surprise with his performance through the first two months of the season. Despite being seen as a raw prospect when he was drafted no. 7 overall in the 2023 NBA Draft, the 19-year-old Frenchman has looked the part of a solid rotation player already. There was a consensus that he had elite defensive upside, but his offense, especially shooting, was seen as a work in progress. He is ahead of schedule on that end so far.
Coulibaly is shooting 41.6% from three this season. Wizards fans are rightfully excited about this development as he was seen as a below-average shooter at the time of the draft. If he is indeed an elite 40%+ three-point shooter, Coulibaly's upside may be even higher than anticipated. But, how real and sustainable is this shooting?
Coulibaly has attempted 77 threes so far this season, a little over three attempts per game. That is a low number for a perimeter player. Almost every single one of these attempts has been catch-and-shoot plays, except for the six pull-up threes he attempted. Out of the 77 attempts, 56 have been wide open shots (as defined by closest defender being at least six feet away, per NBA.com). He has impressively hit 50% of these wide open shots.
On three-pointers he is not wide open, Coulibaly is 4/21. He has also only taken four three-pointers when the coverage is tight aka the closest defender is closer than four feet. He hasn't made any of them.
This is a result of how Coulibaly is being defended right now. Teams currently don't consider him a shooting threat and leave him open. Coulibaly has made them pay so far, but not enough to change the teams' coverage on him.
In order to become a more dangerous shooting threat and an offensive weapon, Coulibaly needs to add more variety to his shot. Hitting open spot-up threes is fantastic, especially as a rookie. How you level up, however, is by hitting off-the-dribble and coming-off-screens threes. That is yet to come for Coulibaly.
Free-throw accuracy is usually a good indicator for where a player is as a shooter in general. Coulibaly is at 63.8% from the charity stripe, albeit on a low number of attempts. This suggests that his current shooting percentages from three may not be sustainable in the long run. A regression might be in the cards.
And that is okay. Coulibaly is already way better than anyone ever thought in his rookie season. There will be bumps in the road, including missing a lot of shots and struggling with efficiency. What matters is how the young man bounces back in those situations, and that's what the Wizards fans need to keep an eye out for.