Washington made their selection in Bilal Coulibaly, a draft prospect whose exposure is credited playing next to one of the best draft prospects of this generation. Proximity aside, it is not hard to see comments of this being the next Deni Avdija or Jan Vesely selection. International players made by Grunfeld-era GMs that picked BPA because it's what the public draft boards called for. But like all draft picks, Bilal has a chance to be different not only because of the prospect but the Wizards environment.
Let’s break it down:
Jan came into Washington at the right time. They were a rebuilding team and looking for complementary players to surround a developing John Wall. However, Jan did not offer more than a transition rim-running big wing. And the coaching staff was unable to help develop his shooting stroke or improve his defense. And when the front office pushed for trades to hasten the development window, Jan was shipped out.
Deni was drafted into Washington in a bad time to be a long-term developmental prospect. Not unlike Kelly Oubre, the team was looking to compete for the postseason. Deni was lost in his first season and didn’t start to truly develop into a role until the coaching change to Wes Unseld Jr. But by his 4th season, Washington doesn’t truly know what they have in Deni. Part was brought on by the lack of playing time and opportunity to grow his offensive game while being surrounded by veterans. It wouldn’t be remiss to say the past front office didn’t not have much of a development plan for Deni given his trajectory.
Where does this leave Bilal Coulibaly?
Coulibaly is coming into a torn-down Washington Wizards under new management. The front office is focused on the long term future of the team which includes Bilal. Bilal’s combination of wingspan, on-and-off defense, and athleticism, could see him play significant time to start the season. Especially playing for a defensive-minded head coach in Wes. Unlike Jan, Bilal can fill a role that can complement other teammates. Unlike with Deni, Bilal is able to improve his offensive game without the immediate expectation of team success.
None of this is guaranteed, however. Bilal hasn't played a single NBA minute yet and despite the comparison, Deni is still on the team. Bilal could look lost in the Summer League and make this post age like spoiled fruit. And the Bilal experiment could be a flop. But if so, it is not because the team did not do their homework. Bilal checks a lot of the boxes the front office likes to draft in players, the team's needs, and players that fits what the current head coach wants. The selection of Bilal Coulibaly looks to be a change from a front office who took more into consideration than athletic talent and Best Player Available boards. They found a player they wanted and went to get him.
Godspeed on his road to player development.