Shoutout to all the Draftees Tonight, Life Changing Moment,” Young tweeted on June 22. “Always love seeing who goes 5th.”
Fifth, of course, is where Young was drafted after the Hawks famously–or infamously, depending on who you ask–traded the draft nights to Serbian sensation Luka Doncic in exchange for the opportunity to draft Young at that spot.
The decision was and still is a highly controversial one in Hawks lore, but Young has since turned himself into the Hawks’ best player since Dominique Wilkins and has already led the team on a deeper playoff run than Wilkins ever did, so the move isn’t nearly as poignant as it could have been had the Oklahoma Sooner not panned out in the NBA.
This 2023 class was led by French phenom Victor Wembanyama, who was selected by the San Antonio Spurs with the first overall pick, a selection about which Young also expressed his thoughts on social media.
If nothing else, Wembanya, the most sought-after NBA prospect since LeBron James two decades ago, will automatically become one of the most unique players to step onto an NBA court when he plays his first game. At 7’5″, there is not a defender on planet Earth who can effectively contest, let alone block, Wembanyama’s jump shot. Speaking of that jump shot, it is very smooth for someone his height.
The 19-year-old also has a startling level of agility for his stature, with the ability to move side to side with a certain speed and coordination that should not be possible at his height, along with only requiring a handful of strides to gallop across an entire 94 feet of hardwood.
And all of this doesn’t even mention his contributions on the defensive end of the court, where he has all of the tools necessary to turn himself into one of the game’s premier shot-blockers very early on in his career.
So indeed, Young was not alone in his assessment that Wembanyama is, in fact, very special.
As for the Hawks, they drafted left-handed hybrid guard Kobe Bufkin out of Michigan with the 15th pick in Thursday’s draft.
While Bufkin won’t be starting or perhaps even getting consistent minutes right away on a team that already features Young and fellow all-star Dejounte Murray, he does at least partially address Atlanta’s most glaring offseason need: their perimeter defense, which was thoroughly embarrassing in their first-round series against the Boston Celtics.
In his time as a Wolverine, Bufkin showed great defensive instincts that the Hawks sorely lack, in addition to flashing some offensive upside, averaging 14 points on 36% three-point shooting last season.
While he may initially struggle to see playing time on a team with the aforementioned Young and Murray in addition to Bogdan Bogdanovic and AJ Griffin, who the Hawks will surely look to further develop this season, it’s refreshing to know that Landry Fields and company do in fact have eyes and saw the turnstiles that the Hawks effectively were on defense against the Celtics, and that they did something to help address it.
Of course, the 19-year-old Bufkin isn’t going to turn a still heavily-flawed roster into a contender overnight. The Hawks have many other problems to address, many of which derive from the 29% three-point shooting of power forward John Collins and the nightly headaches caused by the inconsistency of De’Andre Hunter.
Atlanta owes it to its fanbase to at least look for immediate upgrades at these positions via the trade market or free agency. It presumably wouldn’t take a ton of money or capital to find players who can replicate or surpass the level of play that Hunter and Collins displayed in the Boston series.
In any case, it’s nice to see Young welcoming this latest batch of young talent, led by Wembanyama, into the NBA.
Let’s hope the Hawks spend the rest of this offseason moving in the right direction.