The 2023-24 Michigan men’s basketball roster could look very different next season, and a big reason for that is the possibility of a few players leaving for the draft.
Jett Howard and Kobe Bufkin are both projected to be first-round selections by several media outlets. On his latest big board, Jonathan Wasserman has Bufkin ranked above Howard, with both players on the edge of the lottery. Additionally, All-Big Ten center Hunter Dickinson has flirted with the NBA in the past and has significantly changed his game since initially entering the draft after his freshman season.
The deadline for these guys to declare their eligibility for the 2023 NBA Draft is exactly one month away, and we’ve already seen one Wolverine declare for the draft. Let’s check in on the draft stock of Michigan’s top players who could choose to make the leap to the league.
2022-23 counting stats: 14.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists per game, 41.4% from the field, 36.8% on threes, 80.0% on free throws
Michigan announced that Howard will be entering the draft, which makes a lot of sense. In a vacuum, it’s easy to make a case for Howard’s NBA appeal — he’s 6-foot-8, he can shoot threes, and he has the tools to develop into a three-level scorer. It also helps that he’s the son of a former NBA player; lots of sons of NBA players have made it to the pros, including Jalen Rose, Glen Rice Jr., Glenn Robinson III, and Tim Hardaway Jr.
When watching the games, Howard’s talent is obvious. We saw him score a career-high 34 points in the loss against Iowa, and he completely caught fire in that one. Guys who can go off like that make the mouths of NBA scouts water.
Jett Howard FROM THE LOGO @umichbball— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 13, 2023
He is a perfect 5-5 from three in the first 10 minutes of THE FIRST HALF!
: ESPN2 pic.twitter.com/OwLmIRUl3E
Michigan fans know Howard’s far from a perfect player as he wasn’t a great defender, didn’t rebound well, and didn’t help much at the end of games, contributing to Michigan’s late-game struggles. But NBA teams don’t always focus on what happens on the court; they focus on potential and upside, and Howard has a lot of both.
The freshman didn’t play great to close out the year, partially due to ankle injuries. When looking at mock drafts, he is projected to be picked lower than he was a few months ago.
Howard draft stock update: Slightly down
2022-23 counting stats: 32.4 minutes, 12.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.3 steals per game; 47.4% from the field, 32.9% from three, 82.5% from the free throw line
Bufkin’s draft stock has risen immensely as the season went along, and rightfully so. He went from being a freshman who struggled to get on the floor to one of Michigan’s best players, who was relied upon to make shots late in games.
His three-point stroke has gotten a lot better, but there’s still room to grow. He might be Michigan’s best player when it comes to driving to the basket thanks to his use of shot fakes, his ability to read the defense, and his quick first step. He’s also a crafty finisher, a willing passer, and has a very high IQ on both ends of the floor.
21 PTS for Kobe Bufkin against Wisconsin, filled with step-backs and poised pick-and-roll plays. Was gutsy for the Wolverines down the stretch— The Box and One (@TheBoxAndOne_) February 15, 2023
Big fan of Bufkin; he's shooting up my draft board quickly (and quietly might be my favorite Michigan prospect long-term) pic.twitter.com/Abk08brXyw
He’s also a solid on-ball defender, and when watching Michigan play, you could see him communicating a lot on defense which speaks to his basketball I.Q.
He’s a smidge undersized at the 2-guard at 6-foot-4, but he’s incredibly strong, and it helps his case that he was the youngest player on Michigan’s 2023-24 roster.
After playing all 33 games for Michigan this past season, it was surprising to see him sit out with an ankle injury for Michigan’s final NIT game (Michigan fans got to read the tea leaves on that one). Bufkin made the sophomore leap and proved on the court that he’s good enough to garner a first-round draft selection.
I don’t think his draft stock has ever been higher, especially with how well he was playing to close the year for the Wolverines.
Bufkin draft stock update: So high it’s through the roof
2022-23 counting stats: 18.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 blocks per game, 56.0% from field, 42.1% from three, 72.7% from free throw line
When he participated in the NBA draft combine and tested the waters, teams told Dickinson he needed to get more versatile in the post, improve his three-point stroke and be quicker laterally on defense.
Dickinson’s three-point shot has gotten a lot better the last two seasons, and he has forced the defense to respect his jumper on pick-and-pops. Since his freshman season, he’s also become more versatile in the post, has improved as a passer, and has relied more on his mid-range stroke.
While his defense has gotten a little better, no one would call him a great defender or a rim protector. He was a dominant post player in the Big Ten, but in terms of his NBA upside, he was kind of born 20 years too late.
NBA big men need to be able to stretch the floor and create their own shot; while Dickinson has gotten better at that, he still has a ways to go in that department. The older he gets, the more his draft stock falls. Combine that with the fact that he seems to love being a star in college — and the NIL money that comes with it — and I think it’s highly unlikely he leaves for the draft.
Last year at this time, his draft stock was probably the highest it’s been after his sophomore leap. He closed the year strong, scoring 19 points or more in each of his last six games, but I think his draft stock has stagnated since last season.
Dickinson draft stock update: Unchanged since last season