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Raptors Draft Watch: Should the Raptors consider drafting this year’s mystery box Bilal Coulibaly?

Bilal Coulibaly’s stock is skyrocketing to the point where if he’s a publicly traded stock, he would’ve triggered the stock market circuit breaker.

For the first of the series of prospects we will cover for the Raptors’ 13th pick, I’m bringing a friend of the site Kenyon from the Youtube channel Basketball Rewind. It’s a great channel that’s not going to get you nauseous with hot takes, bait-click titles, and empty-calorie graphics or sound effects. It’s a pure high-level discussion on various basketball topics, and they have done extensive coverage on various draft prospects, with many of them currently in the Raptors’ draft range.

I had a great chat with Kenyon as we reviewed this draft’s mystery box in Bilal Coulibaly. We discussed what we like about Bilal, put our GM hat on, went over his areas of concern, and his Raptors fit.

Why Bilal?

Kenyon: I think anytime you see a prospect and they’re younger, that’s always gonna be interesting, especially if they have translatable skills. That’s probably the first thing for me. Bilal would be the only other person where it’s like, you’re drafting him, and he’s only 18. You have a situation where you have a lot more runway because the person’s body is still changing.

Someone like Bilal, who was initially reported as 6’6” and now reportedly being 6’8”, is believable. You can see him growing from there. Having someone with his physical profile with room to grow physically and mentally, but you can also see the translatable skills is interesting.

The first thing I noticed in recent memory when I re-looked into him was guarding the other team’s point of attack — at his size and length, he looked fluid. He wasn’t getting repeatedly beaten. With his ability to operate the pick-and-roll, he shows some flash and pizzaz, almost like Scottie Barnes, with no looks or whatever. He has some flash to his game, but he’s more mature than that.

Him coming from the French league, a very disciplined league, so I know a lot of people say, like, ohh, I don’t know about this guy. Those dudes (French prospects) aren’t gonna be featured like the G League Ignite prospects. If you aren’t good enough to play, (the coach would be) “this is my job on the line; if a 26-year-old is better than an 18-year-old, we’re gonna invest in the 26-year-old, not the 18-year-old.” You have to be good enough. He went from essentially their G League to their pro league and kept going and growing and growing. He’s now starting, having very impactful games throughout their playoffs. Some of the games are arguably just as is, if not, depending on how you view it, more impactful than Wemby.

JD: You’re looking at this kid, he’s 18 years old, and I don’t know how long he’s been playing, but from the skill set that he’s shown, he doesn’t look like he’s been playing as long as the other guys at his age. He’s really raw, but with his athleticism and motor, I like those physical specimens even more when they show that they can play hard.

I can’t say he’s got good basketball IQ because he looks new to the game. Still, he’s got a good feel in terms of awareness on the floor — good instincts relative to his experience, and that’s something that he would get better at.

JD: I like how light he is with his footwork/strides and his body in general.

Kenyon: They go on his toes, right? With his euro step, he just lightly plants it.

JD: It’s like there are springs on his toes, unlike, for example, Giannis, where you can feel him stomping.

Kenyon: It’s like he’s prancing, and you could see him getting closer to having a staccato-style footstep where it’s very choppy but very coordinated and under control.

Drafting Bilal

JD: Let’s put our GM hat on for a minute, and in a vacuum, which team should take a swing at Bilal?

JD: Every team’s trying to find the next Giannis with grainy footage out there, and in this draft, I can see somebody taking a chance on him right outside of the top 6 or 7. Heck, if I’m a ballsy GM, I might grab him higher if I’m rebuilding a team.

Kenyon: I’ll ask you this question before I give my take. Compared to the Thompson twins, they’re very raw, but between just the twins and Bilal, if you have the fifth pick, who would you rather take a chance on?

JD: I would actually be very ballsy and might take a stab at Bilal

Kenyon: This is where I’m getting at. Between the raw kids in this draft, you might do this as a GM if your contract is on the line. This is your Hail Mary.

Kenyon: I would say the Wizards because they got a new GM, and they’re planning a rebuild. If I’m rebuilding, I’m going for the highest upside swing. I can also go as high as 4th pic, assuming Miller doesn’t drop that far.

JD: I got Washington as well

Kenyon: Maybe OKC because they have a lot of young guys, and they can afford to take gambles like this. Orlando is another team because they have two picks.

JD: Yeah, if Orlando’s got two picks, why not take a swing early.

JD: If OKC passes up (12th pick) on Bilal, what should the Raptors do?

Kenyon: Depends on who’s there

JD: let’s say, Cason, Kobe, Hawkins, JHS. Is there anybody from the usual suspects where you would be like, “I’m taking this guy over Bilal.”

Kenyon: You’ve named two people already, like Cason and Kobe.

JD: easy for me because you know my guy is Kobe, but I don’t mind Cason either.

Areas of Concern

JD: do you have areas of concern with this kid?

Kenyon: I think that number one is his shot. I’m not as worried about his dribble because he’s already more fluid than OG was coming in, so, is the shot legit. Another is whether he will get the opportunity to work on things. There’s only 48 minutes in a game, right? Will he be in an opportunity that will give him the right role? That’s where it comes down to coaching, whether it’s the Raptors or someone else.

JD: I’m sold on his defense, but can he be a good 3+D guy, but I have concerns about whether his shooting will translate soon.

Kenyon: The mechanics need work, but they’re better than the others we’ve seen on this team.

JD: It’s not the same shooting form all the time, it’s like he’s catching the ball, and it feels like he’s looking for the seams, trying to make sure that he’s tucking his elbows, where’re my feet, etc. It’s too mechanical, and that’s actually why I got the impression that he hasn’t been playing that long.

JD: To me, his handle is too raw right now. For example, when you do a pull-up jumper, the handle and the ball placement are important in getting you to your shot pocket in rhythm. Do you think his shot would improve, similar to when OG’s shooting form was tweaked?

Kenyon: Without a question, OG struggles with balance and dribbling the ball off his foot just to compare the two. I think Bilal’s handle looks better than OG’s at 18 years old, and he’s a young guy with enough window to get better there, given his fluidity.

Kenyon: He needs two years, right? Sounds familiar?

JD: 2 years away from being 2 years away? Well, he might be. It depends, right? The environment matters. He should be at least two years away.

Raptors Fit

JD: Let’s say Masai drafts this kid; how does he fit on this team? What if we run it back with VanVleet?

Kenyon: Ok, it depends on who’s on the bench, right? So, could he get minutes? I think so. Masai indicated several times, proving my point that there was a fracture between management and coach, that Masai sees the bench as a developmental piece.

JD: Yeah, because they worked before, right?

Kenyon: depending on who’s here, I think he can crack the rotation, similar to how Koloko did.

JD: Let’s say Christian Koloko, Jak, and Precious are still on the roster next season? Does he see minutes? Perhaps, 905?

Kenyon: I think he could spend 70% of the season on the 905, but he would still crack some minutes here and there. He’d be a bench rotation piece, probably 9th or 10th man.

JD: Given the players that we have right now, what would be your ideal 5-man lineup with Bilal? What interesting lineup would you like to see, even if it’s a pure experiment?

Kenyon: I want to see Barnes, Siakam, Bilal, OG, Koloko.

JD: oh, you’re going Vision 6’9”

JD: I want to see Barnes at the point, Dalano as the second-side creator, then add OG and Koloko, creating my new version of the Agent of Chaos lineup.

JD: If you’re the Raptors, what’s stopping you from drafting Bilal?

Kenyon: Even if he is available, I wonder if we should be taking him. The Raptors aren’t really in a position where we can take, with our current team structure, where we can gamble like that. It would be nice, but we don’t have that; it’s much easier for other teams to take a gamble than a team like us.

The sad thing is that the teams that usually take gambles also aren’t necessarily in a position to have the pick we have. Sometimes they are; usually, they’re not. The last one I can think of in recent memory is Golden State.

We have so many holes at the guard spot. Bilal can be a guard; at least, that’s how he projects. But for him to answer all your questions in an impactful way that isn’t just him looking good here and there but really impacting winning, you may not have the timeline to wait for that. Bilal also may never be what you want him to be or project him to be, whereas the pathway for someone like Cason or Kobe to hit their ceiling, you take Kobe or Cason all day, every day, because their floor is gonna be incredible.

JD: I totally agree. In a vacuum, I would give this thought really strong consideration, and I might pull the trigger. However, I’m mindful of our timeline and roster construct. Regardless of the coaching hire, the immediate plan is to get in the play-in mix this season while re-establishing our developmental capabilities. We have so many holes on our roster, and with no first-round pick next year, the 13th pick doesn’t have to be a homerun but a solid at-bat. Get someone that can help increase this team’s floor while addressing immediate and future needs.

Thanks to Kenyon and the Basketball Rewind for taking the time to review Bilal Coulibaly. Please check out their channel, watch their videos and subscribe.

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