The Utah Jazz made two franchise-altering trades during the 2022 offseason, dealing away former franchise cornerstones Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert in an attempt to pivot towards a rebuilding effort. As a result of these trades, the Jazz not only received a plethora of assets, but they gutted the core of what once was a one-seed in the Western Conference in a much more concerted effort to bottom out. And there was no better time for them to do so, with Victor Wembanyama set to enter the league in the upcoming NBA Draft.
Alas, the Jazz, despite being expected to compete for the best lottery odds, remained a coherent team with plenty of quality pieces. They went off to a hot start, and for quite a while, it seemed like the Jazz would easily make the playoffs. Thanks to Lauri Markkanen’s breakout season, the Jazz simply had too much talent to rival the likes of the Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, and Houston Rockets for being the worst team in the association.
Even then, while the Jazz’s stronger-than-expected 2022-23 season took them out of the running for Victor Wembanyama, they will still have plenty of opportunities to stock the roster with tantalizing prospects. The Rudy Gobert trade, which has already yielded the Jazz a future rim-protecting star in Walker Kessler, will bear yet another of its firstfruits in the form of the 16th overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.
With the upcoming draft looking like a crapshoot outside the Top 3, the Jazz faithful should be hopeful about making the most out of their draft selections with Danny Ainge at the helm. Ainge has had his fair share of draft misses, but during his stint with the Boston Celtics, he was also able to draft quality contributors from different draft slots.
It will be interesting to see what the Jazz do with the 16th overall selection. But it certainly looks like they’re in a position to take a huge swing, as they can afford a huge miss as well given how many selections will be coming their way in the coming years.
And with that said, here is why the Jazz must target Bilal Coulibaly, the 18-year old forward out of France, with the selection they acquired from the Timberwolves.
Why Jazz must target Bilal Coulibaly in 2023 NBA Draft
It doesn’t look like the Jazz are too far off from becoming a playoff-caliber team once more. They have a leg up on other rebuilding teams by virtue of having Lauri Markkanen, a 2023 NBA All-Star starter. Markkanen is a talented scorer, and his mere presence gives the Jazz a fighting chance every single night.
Even then, the Jazz did not tear down their core just to build a mere playoff-caliber team. The Jazz have their sights set on becoming a bonafide title contender, and for that to happen, they will need to surround Markkanen with other players of a similar talent level, if not better. Thus, shooting for the moon when it comes to the 2023 NBA Draft could be the directive.
And there may not be a more tantalizing, boom-or-bust prospect in this year’s draft than Bilal Coulibaly, Victor Wembanyama’s Metropolitans 92 teammate. Coulibaly is a 6’8 small forward with eye-popping athleticism, and his physical tools are incredible, as he complements his monster size with a freakish 7’2 wingspan.
Given those reasons alone, it’s a marvel that Coulibaly won’t be going in the lottery, barring a meteoric rise in the NBA Draft Combine. But the reality is that Coulibaly looks like he’s a ways away from becoming a meaningful contributor for any NBA team. He has shown good feel for moving without the basketball, a skill that’s an imperative to have in today’s NBA, but his ball skills need a lot of work, and his shooting mechanics need to be a lot faster and more sound if he were to make an impact as a 3 and D wing.
There is also the question of the level of competition Bilal Coulibaly has faced throughout his brief career thus far. Coulibaly played well in the U21 league, but he doesn’t have the longest track record of holding his own against senior opposition.
But as mentioned earlier, the Jazz are in a position to bring Coulibaly along slowly. The Jazz, for now, have the likes of Talen Horton-Tucker and Ochai Agbaji filling the wing positions, so it’s not like Coulibaly will feel the pressure from day one to produce. But with Coulibaly’s athleticism and incredible potential as a high-level 3 and D wing with room to grow as a shot creator, the Jazz will be smart to gamble on their staff’s ability to bring the best out of the French youngster.
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