Kobe Bufkin selected in first round of 2023 NBA Draft
Kobe Bufkin will begin his career with the Atlanta Hawks.
The former Michigan guard was selected with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft on Thursday night by the Hawks, just outside the draft lottery. He’s the second Wolverine player drafted in the first 15 picks; his teammate, Jett Howard, was selected 11th overall by the Orlando Magic.
They’re the first U-M teammates to be first-round picks since 2014, and they’re the first U-M teammates to each go top-15 in an NBA Draft since 1997.
Bufkin returned to Ann Arbor for a second season and it did him wonders. The 6-foot-4 combo guard has proven capable of playing with or without the ball, he’s a threat to score from all over the floor, he’s a capable finisher in the lane, and he’s a rugged defender.
As a sophomore for the Wolverines last season, Bufkin averaged 14.0 points per game to go with 4.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.3 steals. He posted a 35.5% clip from 3-point range, an 84.9% mark from the free throw line, and one of the Big Ten’s best effective field goal percentages (54.2%) — no small feat for a guard.
Bufkin is acrobatic and squirrely in the lane, and ambidextrous as a finisher. He bumped his field goal percentage and his 3-point percentages each by 10 percentage points between his freshmen and sophomore seasons — something that gave plenty of NBA teams reason to think he could blossom into a dynamic two-way guard if the shooting continues to dazzle.
His best came as the season began to wind down. He had 28 points in a win over Wisconsin on Feb. 26, then followed that up with 23 points and 6 boards in a March 2 contest against Illinois. He had 19 points, 6 boards, and 4 assists three nights later in Bloomington in what was a 2-point loss to Indiana.
Bufkin was a third-team All-Big Ten selection last season and ended his U-M career with a 23-point performance in the NIT-opening win over Toledo.
His feel for the game and his energy level are positives, but they can tend to get him in trouble. He can be a bit reckless with the ball at times looking to force things. But that’s not too uncommon for a young guard coming into the NBA.
Bufkin’s upside is plenty tantalizing.