After showcasing some impressive improvements this year as a sophomore, Michigan Wolverines guard Kobe Bufkin’s stock with NBA scouts continues to rise.
He was selected late in the first round in a recent 2023 mock draft by The Athletic. But if he decides to come back to Ann Arbor for another season, he could see his draft stock rise even more.
In a recent 2024 mock draft, ESPN analyst Jonathan Givony projects Bufkin to be picked at No. 11 overall by the Portland Trail Blazers.
“The sophomore Bufkin is in the midst of an outstanding February, averaging 15.5 points, 6 rebounds, 3.5 assists on scorching efficiency (67% true shooting percentage). He has generated significant attention from NBA personnel when combined with his lockdown defensive prowess and youth (19.4 years old), making him younger than several freshmen projected to be one-and-done lottery picks.
“Michigan appearing increasingly unlikely to make the NCAA tournament and the potential return of running mate Jett Howard could be reasons for Bufkin to return if he’s not projected as a first-round lock by the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee this spring. Despite possessing significant long-term upside, Bufkin has room to grow with ballhandling, playmaking, decision-making, shooting consistency and his thin frame, things he could elect to address either in college or the NBA depending on his priorities.”
Once this season is over, Bufkin faces the conundrum we see a lot of talented college players face — should he enter the draft just as his stock is starting to climb, or should he return to school to give himself another year to improve and showcase his talents?
It feels like a guarantee Bufkin at least tests the waters and goes to the combine, like how Hunter Dickinson did after his freshman season. A player’s sophomore year is typically when they make their biggest developmental leap, and Bufkin has drastically improved to the point where NBA teams have taken notice.
If Bufkin ends up getting a first round grade, I’d imagine it would be hard to turn that down. Plus, if he came back to school, he’d risk injury or his draft stock stagnating.
On the other hand, if Bufkin returns and waits until the 2024 draft — as Givony implies — he’d undoubtedly be one of Michigan’s best players next season. With how hard of a worker he is, he’d be a shoe-in to be a captain as well. Another year to showcase his offensive improvements, and more time with the ball in his hands if Jett Howard declares for the 2023 draft, could certainly help his case.
As someone who wants to see the Wolverines succeed, I selfishly hope Bufkin stays at Michigan as long as possible. As someone who also wants the best for him, if he gets a first round grade, heading to the next level seems like a no-brainer.