Two of Michigan’s top players from last season have declared for the NBA Draft: Jett Howard and Kobe Bufkin.
While the Wolverines did struggle last season, both guys have the traits to, at the very least, be solid role players in the NBA. We’ve written draft profiles on Howard and Bufkin, who both have the upside to develop into starters and key contributors in the right situation.
Let’s round up where NBA analysts project both players to be picked, and provide some insight on their fit with these teams.
SB Nation (1 round, Ricky O’Donnell)
Jett Howard to Utah Jazz at 13
The Jazz are a team in flux right now; they have a lot of young talent and an All-Star in Lauri Markkanen, but they aren’t quite good enough to get to the playoffs.
I could see Howard coming off the bench in Utah and thriving, as he could help run the second unit with Kris Dunn and Talen Horton-Tucker. A team like the Jazz could be good for him; they are not a team that’s looking to win right now, so he’d have a little leeway to make mistakes and develop as a shot creator.
ESPN (2 rounds, Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo)
As of mid-April, Howard to the Lakers and Bufkin to the Nets are probably the most common pairings among NBA analysts, and it makes sense.
The Lakers are pretty set at forward with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Jarrad Vanderbilt. That said, the Lakers are one of the oldest teams in the league, and adding a young shooter in Howard to play spot minutes off the bench could be beneficial.
The Nets look a lot different than they did just a few months ago, trading away Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and getting a ton of quality players, including budding star Mikal Bridges. While the Nets have a lot of guard depth, their defense is ranked in middle in most major statistics. Bufkin provides great on-ball defense and can develop into a reliable NBA scorer in a few seasons.
The Athletic (2 rounds, Sam Vecenie)
Bufkin to Nets at 21, Howard to Sacramento Kings at 24
If you would have told Michigan fans in October that Bufkin would be projected to be drafted higher than Howard, most of them probably wouldn’t have believed you. But more and more analysts have Bufkin climbing up their boards.
Vecenie has Bufkin going to Brooklyn, giving them yet another versatile wing.
I also love his pick of Howard going to the Sacramento Kings, who just broke their 17-year playoff drought and have one of the best offenses in the league. They could certainly use another forward and if Howard is used like how the Kings use Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter — getting the ball going downhill with space to create, or off hand-offs from Domantas Sabonis — he could become a guy who averages 15 points per game quickly.
Bleacher Report (2 rounds, Jonathan Wasserman)
The Raptors just lost in the play-in tournament and could be making a lot of moves this offseason. They have a talented young forward in Scottie Barnes, but they could use some more guard depth, especially if Fred Van Vleet and O.G. Anunoby aren’t back with the team next season. Bufkin would give the Raptors a solid defender who could come off the bench and provide a spark.
The Hawks have sneakily drafted really well the last few years, developing lottery picks like De’Andre Hunter and Onyeka Okongwu into reliable role players. Howard could be another reliable role player for them; if he can knock down open looks like how Saddiq Bey has been since he was traded from the Detroit Pistons, Hawks fans will love him.
USA Today’s Rookie Wire (2 rounds, Cody Taylor)
Howard to Lakers at 17, Bufkin to Nets at 21
Both the Lakers and the Nets are in the playoffs right now, and when watching those games, it’s fun for me to imagine how Michigan players would look playing in these games.
We saw Howard have memorable scoring bursts at Michigan, like his 21 points in the first half in a 34-point outing against Iowa. One of the bursts happening in a playoff game could help any NBA teams pick up a key win.
Bufkin was never scared of the moment at Michigan, hitting a lot of key shots in the second halves of games. NBA teams will love that about him.
The Ringer (1 round, Kevin O’Connor)
Howard to New Orleans Pelicans at 16
On paper, the Pelicans have one of the deepest rosters in the NBA. But the health of Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram the last few seasons has really put a strain on that depth. Howard could help add to that solid group of young forwards they have, and could provide shooting to a team that was 15th in three-point percentage this past season.
I do have beef with Kevin O’Connor, though. Not only did he try to convince Pistons fans Killian Hayes was the best prospect in the 2020 draft, he doesn’t have Bufkin as a first round pick. He doesn’t even have him on his 40-person big board! Come on, man.
Yahoo Sports (2 rounds, Krysten Peek)
Bufkin to Pelicans at 16, Howard to Lakers at 17
The Pelicans were one of the best defensive teams in the league this past season, and Bufkin could certainly give them even more help on that end of the floor.
The Lakers only made 34.7% of their three-point attempts in the 2022-23 regular season, a mark that was 24th in the league. Howard would help them bump that percentage up, spacing the floor to help James and Davis cook.