Victor Wembanyama has, understandably, grabbed headlines all season long: everyone knows who he is and what team he plays for. Barring some bizarre decision-making or other unforeseen circumstance, he’s going to be the number one overall selection and no one will bat an eye.
What perhaps has gone under the radar is that Wembanyama has a teammate who has also declared for the draft.
18-year-old (soon to be 19 in July) Bilal Coulibaly began the season playing with Metropolitan 92’s junior side, but not long after the turn of the new year he found himself playing alongside Wembanyama in the starting lineup and becoming a key contributor as ‘Mets 92’ look to take the French title.
The French prospect stands at 6-foot 6-inches tall and is listed as a forward, but he has played larger than his size, more so when he was with the junior side. He may not be a highly touted as his teammate, but there’s an awful lot to like about Bilal Coulibaly’s game and he’s absolutely worthy of an NBA selection.
Across the season — which is still ongoing — Coulibaly is averaging 10.9 points per game on 52% shooting from the field on seven attempts, 34% from three on 2.2 attempts, 71% from the line on 3.3 attempts, four rebounds, one offensive rebound, 1.3 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.5 blocks, 1.5 turnovers and 1.6 fouls per game in 23.6 minutes per game across 48 games so far, per Real GM.
Those averages are a mix of almost two seasons, in the sense that when playing with the junior side Coulibaly’s role and production were both larger than his current role with the senior team:
His usage rate with the junior side was 27% while his usage rate with the senior side is just 13%, so the season averages don’t quite tell the whole picture.
With that, let’s look at some film and take a look at Coulibaly’s game, and we’ll look at his play from the junior side to see the flashes of why ‘Mets 92’ now feature him in an integral role and why he’s now projected to be drafted in the first round. Coulibaly wears the number 3.
Overall I’d describe Coulibaly’s offense as a bit raw right now. He’s best right now with the ball in his hands and on the move, driving to the rim and creating contact or getting to the rim to finish but the result can be inconsistent at times.
What’s evident straight away with Coulibaly is his length (7-foot 1-inches) and stride, which he displays here as he attacks, using those long strides to quickly travel ground and extend. And shows his length to finish at the rim after a beautiful step:
Using the screen this time, Coulibaly gets in between the two defenders and drives and finishes at the rim as the defender bounces off him:
After a drive and extra pass, Coulibaly attacks the gap, scoops and finishes at the rim, plus the foul:
Coulibaly is good at drawing contact and fouls/free throws in these scenarios too, as he does so here as he switches hands on the cross and drives to the basket, drawing the foul and free throws:
Here, Coulibaly comes off the curl and drives inside, extending himself around the defense and drawing the foul and free throws:
Coulibaly is a threat in transition too and causes annoyances for defenders.
He fills the lane here, receives the ball and finishes with the dunk, drawing the foul in the process:
On this play Coulibaly grabs the rebound and sets off, drawing the foul from the defender and actually earns two free throws from this collision:
There are a number of occasions, however, where Coulibaly shows his inexperience at times. He’s not quite there with the dribble yet, and sometimes he can get into good spaces but isn’t able to complete the play.
Coulibaly gets into a decent spot here after getting around the defender after the brief double and shows a solid step-move inside but can’t hit the runner:
You can see how his length will allow him to shoot over defenders’ contests but just needs to develop that touch.
At the end of a quarter, Coulibaly takes the ball up the floor, covers good ground, goes behind his back but after getting himself into a good spot he again leaves his attempt a little long:
In transition, Coulibaly powers forward and gets to the rim but blows the dunk:
Here, Coulibaly rejects the screen, drives, produces a lovely step to evade the defense and puts himself in prime position to finish but his layup rolls off the rim:
On the drive, Coulibaly gets in a bit too hot as he tries to go behind his back and commits the turnover running into traffic:
Off the dribble, Coulibaly loses the ball and commits the turnover:
Like I said, Coulibaly is a bit raw offensively but is able to get a few free points with some offensive rebounding:
This next play I think typifies where Coulibaly is at offensively — he goes the length of the floor, manages to work himself into an open shot at the rim, misses but collects his own miss to putback the dunk:
In terms of a jumpshot, it’s a bit inconsistent at the moment.
Here, the dribble isn’t quite fluid and when he rises into the pull-up jumpshot it doesn’t fall:
Coming off the screen, Coulibaly rises into the jumpshot and again it falls short:
I’d like to see Coulibaly attempt more catch-and-shoot jumpers, or one/two dribble pull-up if coming off a screen but off the dribble I don’t think Coulibaly is there right now and development is needed the most here offensively right now.
With an average of 1.3 assists per game there’s not a massive amount to say here but any playmaking from Coulibaly comes more so on the move, be it in transition or off the dribble.
Coulibaly does well here to lull his defender and drives inside and finds his teammate. He may have been called for the charge but it’s this type of play that Coulibaly is best able to find his teammates:
In the open court, Coulibaly attacks, draws the defense and finds his teammate for the assist at the rim:
Here, Coulibaly draws the second defender on the drive and finds his teammate under the rim who ends up getting blocked but this is how Coulibaly sets it up:
From the corner, Coulibaly again draws the second defender and kicks it out to his teammate for the assist for three:
I would generally call Coulibaly an unselfish player. He looks to make the extra pass and passes up shots that he could take himself, like this one where he could rise into the jumpshot but makes the pass inside instead:
Now for the fun stuff.
Immediately what stands out from Coulibaly defensively is his sheer length — all 7-foot and 1-inch of it. Watching him rebound at times, you just have to laugh sometimes — he just extends his arms and it’s like a magnet the way he’s able to collect it sometimes.
In a skirmish at the rim on this possession, Coulibaly challenges the shot and as the ball is falling he showcases his length to effortlessly claim the rebound, and then sets up an opportunity in transition:
After a missed shot, Coulibaly is able to claim the rebound ahead of the center by virtue of his length:
Off of a miss in the corner, Coulibaly’s length is again able to claim the rebound and possession for his team:
This length also allows him to collect errant passes:
And change shots at the rim:
Coulibaly also has good instincts when it comes to his rotations/help.
After the pick-and-roll, the drive opens up but Coulibaly slides over to plug the gap and prevent the defense behind him from breaking down and this forces the pass to the perimeter:
With a driving path opening up for the offensive player, Coulibaly rotates and perfectly times his challenge to block the shot at the rim:
After a switch on the pick-and-roll, Coulibaly is quickly able to recognize and react that his teammate is beaten on the drive and acts quickly to attempt to slide over and try plug the drive:
Sure, there are teammates behind him waiting but it’s the quick recognition and movement that was impressive here.
Coulibaly just gets after it defensively, that’s the easiest way to put it — it’s clear he takes pride on the defensive side of the floor.
Strong full-court pressure here and he shows the defensive intensity all the way through before the ball is given up:
The hustle on this play to get down to the floor to intercept the ball on an out-of-bounds play:
Here, he does well to fight over the screen to continue to deny the ball:
In transition on a 2-vs-1, he deters the option for the pass with his length and comes up with a big two-handed block at the rim:
This might be my favorite play as he digs on the drive attempt, breaks away, receives the ball and showcases his length as he takes off from afar and dunks at the rim, plus the foul:
I really enjoy watching Bilal Coulibaly but I won’t deny there are issues right now and, look, if you’re selecting him in the draft you’re doing so hoping he can realize the potential he has — he’s a project. He needs to learn to shoot a more consistent jumpshot and develop a tighter handle. These things are really important to unlock his potential, and at 19-years-old in July there’s a lot of time for him to do so to build on his solid ability on the move. And he’s very athletic, so there’s a lot to love there too.
Defensively, I love it. Coulibaly has good size and he plays above that size, his length and athleticism are a huge assets defensively, and he moves well which should give him the ability to switch. He has good defensive instincts and awareness and is able to act on these quickly and accordingly. More than that, he actually gives a s**t defensively and gets after it, which counts for a lot.
Let’s have a look at what other outlets say about Bilal Coulibaly and how they rate him heading into the draft.
ESPN have Coulibaly ranked 22nd on their Best Available list, Kyle Boone and Garry Parish of CBS Sports mock Coulibaly 22nd and 27th respectively, while Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer has Coulibaly mocked to the Hawks at 15th overall with this to add:
Surrounding Trae Young with versatile wings will always be a priority for the Hawks, which makes Coulibaly a logical target. He offers a high floor because of his defense, but also plenty of upside with his flashes on offense. Trading down could also make sense for Atlanta since there are more proven players that could still be available in the 20s.
Superb measurements, a long wingspan, and a wide frame give him elite defensive upside. But he also brings grit and a consistent approach, actively contesting hard on closeouts, jumping passing lanes, and flying in to help in the paint as a shot blocker.
Even at his young age, he’s got the strength to compete at the pro level as a defender who switches across positions.
Explosive at-rim finisher who takes long strides to the basket and needs little space to elevate for loud dunks.
He’s best as a straight-line driver and displays skill using an occasional change-of-pace move or Euro steps.
Plays within himself by keeping the ball moving and looking for cutting opportunities. A creative NBA offense could take advantage of his athleticism by using him as a screener to get him going to the basket.
Improved 3-point shooter off the catch (35.1 percent) and a solid free throw shooter (76.6 percent), both way up from his first season with the Mets 92.
Raw ball handler who often attacks the paint without a plan, leading to charges or sloppy passes. Early in his career, his team will ask him to stick to simple plays.
Unproven shooter who’s experienced streaky stretches. He has relatively stiff mechanics as he loads the ball up, so he’ll need to prove that it can translate.
Defenses don’t have to worry about him taking jumpers off the dribble, as he lacks fluidity and quickness going from his dribble into his shot.
Sam Vecenie of The Athletic mocks Coulibaly (as of mid-May, his most recent mock draft as of writing this) 33rd overall but 24th on his big-board, with this to add on Coulibaly in his ‘Sleeper’ section:
Bilal Coulibaly, Wembanyama’s teammate with Metropolitans 92, is a hot name currently for NBA front offices. A 6-foot-7 or so wing with something in the ballpark of a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Coulibaly has elite length for a wing, and the flash plays he showcases from time to time are absurd. Coulibaly is a classic highlight guy right now. There are moments when he looks like a lottery pick with his mix of mobility, explosiveness and length. You get him out in space, and it’s a show. He’s going to throw down all over everyone. There are also moments he looks like he’s nowhere near ready for the NBA as a teenager playing in a tough professional league. When you watch full games of Metropolitans — which many NBA scouts have done throughout the season because of Wembanyama — he’s not quite as impactful as his athleticism would indicate. He’s still very much a project.
But he’s a project whom teams are fascinated by because of those athletic tools. If you get him out in transition, he’s a freight train. The jumper mechanics look projectable — albeit a bit hitchy with a long release — even if he’s only made 34 percent from 3 so far this season across all competitions, including in the Espoir youth league in France. Coulibaly is assured to be drafted at some point, and it’ll likely come in the first round. The only question for him is whether to try his luck this season when he’s still this unfinished product or to go next season after an offseason of development into a weaker 2024 class. Right now, I have him as a late first rounder.
‘Classic highlight guy’ is a good way to describe it. Coulibaly is raw, there’s no denying that, but at the same you see what brings and the flashes he shows and you almost don’t care, it’s worth it. Now, I wouldn’t spend the 15th overall selection on Coulibaly, as much as I like him. As O’Connor noted, trading down would make sense, but how high in the 20’s will Coulibaly rise just so the front office who believes in him gets in front before another team selects him?
I’d love to see him with the Hawks, but even I have to admit the 15th overall selection would be a big leap for him. The Hawks could always trade down if they really believe in him and hope someone doesn’t beat them to the punch, but wherever he ends up, Bilal Coulibaly will be a fascinating project to watch develop.