After two seasons with the Michigan Wolverines, Kobe Bufkin is an NBA player and a member of the Atlanta Hawks. He’s the 16th Wolverine to be drafted since 2013, and the 8th player since Juwan Howard took over as head coach.
This is the third season in a row that two Michigan Wolverines got drafted, and the first time since 2014 that two Wolverines were selected in the first round.
After not playing much his freshman year, Bufkin was a stud as a sophomore, averaging 14.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game while shooting 48.2% from the field, 35.5% from three and 84.9% from the free throw line. He was an All-Big Ten third-team member by the coaches and was an honorable mention by the media.
Since putting a show in conference play in mid-February, Bufkin has been steadily rising up draft boards; he was forecasted to go as high as 8th by NBA draft experts.
Let’s discuss what Bufkin is good at, what he needs to work on and what teams could be a good fit for him.
We see a lot of young players take a leap their sophomore season, and that’s exactly what Bufkin did. His draft stock steadily rose all season long, especially during Michigan’s eight-game stretch where it went 6-2 in conference play. Bufkin had 13 points or more in every one of those games, including a career-high 28 points in the OT win over Wisconsin.
Bufkin wasn’t your usual sophomore, though. He was actually the youngest player on Michigan’s roster, which I probably make NBA teams even more fond of him.
Offensively, Bufkin was easily Michigan’s best guard at getting to the rim. He was able to do that by using his shiftiness to get ahead of his defender before finishing reliably.
Kobe Bufkin strong drive and finish through traffic for Michigan pic.twitter.com/zmCU7r9XNz— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) February 26, 2023
Bufkin also got better at knocking down threes, picking his spots and thriving from mid-range as the year went along. There were a lot of second halves this past season where his offensive outbursts would wake up Michigan’s offense, or be the only source of it.
Michigan couldn’t close games well last season, but Bufkin hit a lot of clutch shots and was a big reason the Wolverines were in those games in the first place.
He is also very solid defensively. You could make a case Bufkin was Michigan’s best defender, especially on the ball. His long arms and quick foot speed helps him stay in front of ball handlers before swiping the ball away. He led the Wolverines with 43 steals (1.3 each game). He’s an intelligent defender who communicates quite a bit, two things that have helped Michigan get stops.
Kobe Bufkin with solid defense resulting in a block— Ersin Demir (@EDemirNBA) February 26, 2023
Reads the screen very well as Rutgers plays 4-on-5, leaving him enough room to stay with the ball handler rather than to switch
Only player in college with:
Block % ≥ 2;
Steal % ≥ 2;
Free Throw % ≥ 0.83;
FG% at rim ≥ 0.69. pic.twitter.com/TDgYFSFUOc
Bufkin is a two-way guard who can score at all three levels and defends the ball. I would think every NBA team would want as many of those types of guards as possible.
What he needs to work on
One of the great things about Bufkin as a prospect is he doesn’t have a lot of clear weaknesses.
He doesn’t really do anything at an elite level, which is nitpicking but it’s also why he probably won’t get picked in the lottery. You’d like to see his three-point shooting climb a couple percentage points. Michigan couldn’t win close games because of late game struggles; those struggles entirely weren’t his fault, but he has to shoulder at least a little bit of the blame there.
Defensively, he did take a lot of gambles trying to go for steals, so he’ll have to get more disciplined when it comes to that. Offensively, he’s not a true point guard and will have to play with another guard, so at 6-foot-4, he’s technically a smidge undersized. I’d also like to see him get better as a shot creator for other guys.
We’ll have more on Bufkin’s fit in the coming days, and we’ll be sure to keep tabs on what is hopefully a lengthy pro career. Maize N Brew wishes him all the best; he will be sorely missed on this year’s squad, but he should be a reliable NBA contributor for years to come.