Discover more from SubTsakalidis (SubTsak), a Memphis Grizzlies Substack
Memphis Grizzlies 2023 NBA Draft Prospects: Bilal Coulibaly
Could Victor Wembanyama's teammate be a heist for the Grizzlies in this year's draft?
Bilal Coulibaly, Wing, France (Metropolitan 92)
Measurements: 6’7”, 7’2” wingspan
Age: 18 years old
Stats: 11.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 1.4 assists. Shooting splits of 52.8/35.4/72.5 on 7.7/2.2/3.5 volume splits.
Per-36 (via Tankathon): 18.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.5 steals, 2.2 assists
Mock Draft placement: 22 - Nets (ESPN), 25 - Grizzlies (Tankathon), 15 - Hawks (The Ringer), 25 - Grizzlies (No Ceilings), 12 - Thunder (NBA Big Board), 18 - Heat (Mavs Draft), 33 - Spurs (The Athletic), N/A (The Box and One), 27 - Hornets (Bleacher Report)
Will the Memphis Grizzlies use a first-round pick in this year’s draft, or will they use the asset to pursue an upgrade on the wing? It’s fair to speculate, and that same discussion will happen here, Daily Memphian, Commercial Appeal, Bluff City Media, Twitter, and more. At the time being though, the Grizzlies do have the 25th pick, so obviously there will be homework done on these potential draft acquisitions.
Let’s start with my favorite realistic draft target: Bilal Coulibaly from France.
His teammate, Victor Wembanyama, has rightfully captured the shine from their Metropolitan 92 club. However, executives and scouts traveling to see this generational big man also caught a glimpse of an 18-year old wing with intriguing tools and physical traits to thrive in today’s NBA.
Coulibaly will be a name to watch over the next month, as he's a player that could shoot up draft boards as more intel comes in.
If he’s on the board at 25, like several mock drafts project him to be, it’s a no-brainer.
Offensive efficiency + scalability
Defensive event creation
Production in professional setting for his age
This tweet from Rafael Barlowe of NBA Big Board caught my eye on how efficient Bilal Coulibaly has been with Metropolitan 92 — increasing his intrigue as a bonafide first-round talent. Within his intrigue, there’s scalability in his skillset, meaning there’s evidence he could be impactful when his usage is reduced.
Several skills to watch for in “scalability”: catch-and-shoot, cutting, transition. Bilal Coulibaly flashed upside, at times excellence, in these 3 areas of the offense.
This season, he’s shooting 38.5% (15-39) on catch-and-shoot 3’s — number bumps up to 45.8% (11-24) when “unguarded.” He’s not the primary playmaker for Metropolitan 92, so he’s often slotted either in the wing or the corner, a forecast for his role in the NBA. He’s not the perfect shooter (more on that), but he has decent mechanics and can make defenses pay for collapsing inside — a frequent tactic against Wembanyama.
When spacing off the wing or corner, Coulibaly can catch defenses sleeping on the weakside or baseline and exploit it to attack the defense as a cutter. He’s shooting 71.4% (15/21) on cuts — utilizing his cutting instincts to identify the right lanes, and leveraging his size and vertical pop to finish above the rim.
Coulibaly also scores on 66.7% (18/27) of his field goal attempts in transition, and that’ll be a fascinating skill to monitor in the NBA. He has grab-and-go potential, whether it’s off a defensive event or rebound. He can also fly above the rim as a runner along the sidelines.
That same transition scoring ability could be parlayed with his defensive tools and upsides. As a 6’7” perimeter player with a 7’2” wingspan, he checks a lot of boxes for his potential as a defender. He creates defensive events (2.5 steals per 36 minutes), can defend multiple positions, and can disrupt passing lanes.
His defensive potential also comes defending at the point-of-attack, giving up just 0.582 PPP when defending the pick-and-roll ball-handler. Granted, it doesn’t fully capture his potential — on both sides, as it accounts for field goals from the ball-handler itself. Within all of it though, his length and lateral quickness could be a massive asset when defending on the ball in space. He could often die on a screen or passively switch, but when locked in, his screen navigation combined with his physical tools make him a lethal defender.
Coulibaly’s potential also lies within his production and his role. His numbers don’t pop off the page or anything, but he’s producing at a young age and in his realistic NBA role — a slashing wing. His strengths serve as strong indicators he could impact winning basketball at the next level.
Areas of Improvement
Creation (pull-up shooting + playmaking)
Is the shot real?
Bilal Coulibaly isn’t a creator with Metropolitan 92, and the moments as one has left little to be desired. He’s shooting 1-8 as a pick-and-roll handler, while only shooting 1-10 on dribble jumpers. Nothing appears super troubling — his handle is smooth, he navigates to his spot well, but he could use a bit more lift on his jumper. Maybe reps helps? Regardless, it’s not a fantastic sign for his trajectory as a live-dribble creator.
Coulibaly’s playmaking shows more in transition (21.1 assist percentage, 1.38 assist-to-turnover ratio) than in the halfcourt setting (7.7, 0.49). Granted, it shouldn’t totally hinder his chances of becoming a good — perhaps elite — role player in the NBA. However, improving his passing is key, as the NBA continues to evolve where all 5 positions are empowered and encouraged to be playmakers.
While Coulibaly has shown upside as a shooter, it’s fair to question its legitimacy. His 3-point percentage (37.5) is modest, but his free throw shooting (57.8%) and his touch on his floaters (1-4 on those attempts) draw some skepticism of his jumper.
Bilal Coulibaly has scalable skills for the NBA game, and though the creation may not come, the outside shooting is the most pivotal of it all. It could be the catalyst for the prosperity of his NBA career.
Fit with the Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies have always thrived in chaos — jump in passing lanes, create deflections and defensive events, and fly in transition. It’s been a recipe for them to be one of the league’s best fast-break teams, and a powerhouse defense.
One thing missing in their defense is an elite disruptor, a trait lost in the departures of De’Anthony Melton and Kyle Anderson. Those two players were pivotal in creating cycles (defense→offense) for the Grizzlies. While they experienced success in this regard last season, a 3-and-D wing with Coulibaly’s tools is worth a swing with the 25th pick.
There may be worry with an overlap with Ziaire Williams, David Roddy, and Jake LaRavia — barring trades. I see Coulibaly’s fit and minutes competition with John Konchar and Vince Williams Jr.
Coulibaly can sizzle in the G League for a year to sharpen his offensive game, primarily as a creator and shooter. Ideally, his offensive role is to be a change-of-pace wing — slotting at either the 2 or the 3 — that finds opportunistic offense in transition or off cuts. Defensively, he can be an agent of chaos that could be a primary stopper, or one that does the job in spot minutes.
Bilal Coulibaly may come across as an upside swing, but for a contending team looking to add more 3-and-D wings with size to their roster, he’s worth the flier for the Grizzlies.
Prediction: Bilal Coulibaly is close to the Grizzlies’ range for most of the draft cycle, but ultimately lands in the top 20 to a team looking for a swing.
Stats found on Synergy Sports
If you choose to support my Substack, SubTsakalidis — aka “SubTsak” — follow this link to my St. Jude fundraiser page for my wife’s fundraising team, “Allie’s Allies.” If you choose to subscribe, all proceeds will go towards St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
SubTsakalidis (SubTsak), a Memphis Grizzlies Substack is a reader-supported publication with proceeds going to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. For a monthly or yearly donation, subscribe today.