While many were fawning over Victor Wembanyama, one of his teammates on Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans began to catch the eyes of NBA scouts. Bilal Coulibaly’s youth, length, athleticism, and flashes on both ends of the floor have resulted in him jumping up draft boards.
He is currently participating in the Betclic Elite French championship series and continuing to showcase his talents. The upside is apparent, but just as there is with any home-run swing, there’s always a chance of striking out.
Coulibaly’s build stands out right away with his reported 6’7” and absurd 7’3” wingspan. According to an insightful interview with SLAM Magazine, Coulibaly has been a part of the French youth basketball system since he was 13 and grew from 5’6” to 6’3” between the ages of 15 and 17.
In 16 games played with the U21 Espoirs Boulogne-Levallois Mets, he averaged 21.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.6 steals, and 1.2 blocks while playing 32.1 minutes a night. It was all done efficiently on 53.0 percent from the field, 32.4 percent from three on 4.3 attempts per game, and 76.6 percent from the free-throw line on 6.7 attempts per game.
He fills up the stat sheet by making an impact in a variety of ways on both ends of the court. After dominating the Under-21 league, he became a full-time contributor and member of the Mets primary team in January and never looked back.
Let’s start with the offensive flashes Coulibaly has shown, which were primarily seen during his time with the U21 team. That competition level is a somewhat decent parallel to the college game in the United States from the aspect of playing against others who are similar in age. His long strides in the open court translate to a ridiculous top speed.
Throwback to this Bilal Coulibaly dunk 👀
— No Ceilings (@NoCeilingsNBA) June 11, 2023
Coulibaly will immediately be a threat in the open court. He displayed moments of self-creation, although some patience and fine-tuning will be required from himself and the organization that drafts him. His crossover goes outside the frame of his body and has shaken defenders on a few occasions, but more moves will need to be added to his bag.
With the U21 squad, he felt more comfortable creating and taking jumpers off-the-dribble and was relatively successful at knocking them down. He shot 57.5 percent on twos, per Proballers basketball stats. His creativity in utilizing his length, fluidity, and athleticism at the rim is obvious, even if sometimes he may overcomplicate things for himself.
He’s not one to initiate the offense every time down the floor, but more of an off-ball cutter and someone who finds his moments within the flow of the game. Especially as he adjusted to playing with and against higher levels of competition, he leaned more into impacting the game with well-timed off-ball cuts and finishes.
One game from Bilal Coulibaly and you can see just how impactful his cutting & overall feel for the game are. @Itamar_17_10 had a good thread on him earlier and how he uses his motor & IQ so well. Still just 18, and already so many promising signs including 54% shooting in Europe pic.twitter.com/jLymk6vS2a
— Mavs/Magic Draft (@MavsDraft) April 22, 2023
Shooting from beyond the arc is going to be a substantial swing skill for the French prospect. His aforementioned 32.4 percent on 4.3 attempts per game with the U21 team is a decent starting point, but that will need to be improved upon if he’s going to optimize his talents at the next level. With less defensive focus from the opposition and a more defined offensive role during his time with the main squad, he converted a promising 45.2 percent of his triples on 1.1 attempts per game.
With so much variance there, it’s hard to get a good gauge for the caliber of shooter that Bilal Coulibaly is. He’s attempted about 2.3 threes per game through nine postseason games that are currently ongoing and converted just 23.8 percent.
Instead of attacking the closeout, Bilal Coulibaly goes for the catch-and-shoot three here, which was the better decision.
The release reminds me a bit of AJ Griffin. pic.twitter.com/ZpK9pAxsKC
— Ersin Demir (@EDemirNBA) June 11, 2023
His defensive impact throughout both levels was apparent. With less offensive responsibility, he was able to devote most of his focus to impacting the game on the other end of the floor during his time alongside Webenyama and the rest of the Mets main roster.
A 7’3” wingspan with impressive lateral quickness, discipline, and an understanding of off-ball rotations that are above his age is a baseline for a modern switchable wing/forward defender who can be sporadically assigned to guards as well. At his current weight and strength level, he should not be asked to slow down bigs, but if he puts on a substantial amount of muscle in the coming years, that could become a possibility down the line.
His length swallows up ball handlers, restricts vision and angles to passing lanes, and causes panic. Defenders often take time to adjust to impacting the NBA game on that end, and that will certainly be the case for the currently thin Coulibaly who will not turn 19 until the end of July, but the upside is undeniable.
Averaging 2.6 steals and 1.2 blocks with the U21 team says plenty about his defensive impact. Those numbers fell to 0.8 steals and 0.2 blocks with the main club, but those came in a fraction of the minutes played comparatively. That is where Coulibaly made his impact felt when promoted, the pairing of him and Wembanyama made life as difficult as it gets for opposing offenses every time they stepped out there.
Many of the above clips came in the postseason semi-finals where Bilal Coulibaly has continued to strengthen his case as a prospect.
Prior to this season, it seemed as though Coulibaly could find his name called somewhere in the 2024 NBA Draft if he continued at his rate of progression. Now, there are rumors that Coulibaly has a promise in the 2023 lottery because of the absurd flashes.
With how raw he currently is, there is plenty of risks involved in him as a prospect. While a highlight reel makes him look like a future perennial All-Star, his lowlights slow the hype train down a bit.
His handle is basic at the current moment, and when pressured by NBA athletes he will almost surely be uncomfortable and turnover prone early on. There was a significant difference in his comfort level and impact off-the-bounce between the U21 and the main roster.
Three-point shooting is his most obvious and straightforward question mark, but how he finds success when he’s competing against other ridiculous athletes and builds similar to himself will be something to monitor as well.
Whoever ends up taking Coulibaly will also have to make a decision on the ideal way for him to continue his development. Would it be beneficial for him to stay with the Mets in France and attempt to be a primary option in France with Wembanyama off to San Antonio? Maybe a team would elect that the best method is for him to get in their system now and either live with the growing pains that come with young raw talent on the NBA floor or have him get reps in the G-League.
No matter the immediate path that is decided, Bilal Coulibaly’s age, size, athleticism, and versatile flashes make him as intriguing of an upside swing as there is after the very top of the draft. The risks involved are apparent, but it seems all but guaranteed that some team in the first round will be willing to take that gamble on June 22nd.