Did the OKC Thunder issue a draft promise to an interesting forward?

Metropolitan 92's French Bilal Coulibaly reacts (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)
Metropolitan 92's French Bilal Coulibaly reacts (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images) /

The 2023 NBA Draft is right around the corner, which means it is smokescreen season! It is the time of year when we make coffee, bunker down, work the phones, and stare at screens nonstop for a crumb of information that Sam Presti will likely make irrelevant in three weeks. Perhaps the OKC Thunder being so secretive works against them at times, as owners can float out tidbits to prop up their prospect knowing OKC will not rebuff the report.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are often tied to draft day promises and heavy smokescreens. Matisse Thybulle, James Bouknight, Caleb Houstan, Frank Jackson, Jabari Smith Jr, Cam Payne, Mitch McGary, Reggie Jackson, Aleksej Pokusevski, Daniel Orton, etc.

Only a few of those names ended up on the Thunder roster come draft day. So it is not as though these rumors are never true, but they do not have a high success rate.

The OKC Thunder have reportedly issued an NBA Draft promise to Bilal Coulibaly, Victor Wembanyama’s teammate. So is there fire with this smoke?

As the world turns, so does OKC, allegedly issuing draft promises. Now, it is Victor Wembanyama’s teammate, Bilal Coulibaly. This smoke screen feels more real than most, given how “Thunder-y” he is. A late bloomer in terms of this draft process, who is 18 years old, has some raw ability and a high ceiling but is also making a high-level impact in the postseason for the Metropolitans 92.

At 6’7 with a 7’3 wingspan, the 18-year-old is averaging 11 points, four rebounds, and a steal per game while shooting 35 percent from beyond the arc. However, his real skill is at the rim. On cuts, Coulibaly is able to compromise the defense (1.194 points per possession when cutting to the rim) and scores at a 68 percent clip at the cup.

On catch-and-shoot looks, Bilal Coulibaly turns in 37 percent and 36 percent on spot-up attempts and is excellent on offensive put-backs (97th percentile). Running the floor in transition is an excellent skill for Coulibaly, who posted 1.125 points per possession which blends well with OKC, who was top-five in the league in pace a year ago.

Defensively, Coulibaly ranks in the 75th percentile, defending the pick-and-roll at a high clip (79th percentile), closing out to take away spot-up chances (78th percentile), staying with matchups in isolation (51t percentile), and holding his opponents to an unreal 28 percent shooting on catch and shoot attempts thanks to his length. At the rim, even at 18 against grown men, Bilal Coulibaly did not get abused, holding his own in the 45th percentile. However, offensive players only finished layups at a 50 percent clip against Coulibaly down low.

There is much to like about the 18-year-old, who has great upside while offering NBA-level minutes from opening night. However, does that mean to stop the search and Coulibaly is a member of the Thunder? Of course not.

The only thing to take away from this reported draft promise is that the stock of Bilal Coulibaly is rising. Take some time over the next three weeks to dig into his game. You might be surprised by just how good he is.

The Thunder might draft Bilal Coulibaly, and if I had to guess how it will go: The initial reaction will be disgust; then, by July 3rd, as Summer League starts, fans will be aboard the Coulibaly train. The bottom line is it is fun to sift through the tea leaves and try to patch together who Sam Presti will select on Draft night, but we all know no matter who the OKC Thunder pick, everyone will be on board talking themselves into the player sooner rather than later.

The only cautionary tale I have is that Bilal Coulibaly is much different than Aleksej Pokusevski or Ousmane Dieng. Just because he is a young player from overseas doesn’t mean he will take three or four years to play meaningful minutes. He could do that for the OKC Thunder as soon as 2023-24.

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