The Atlanta Hawks stood pat during the draft despite trade rumors leading up to it, and they were able to land one of the top point guards in the class in Kobe Bufkin with the No. 15 overall pick.
“Bufkin has a chance to earn a 10-15-minute role handling the ball for the Hawks’ second unit,” wrote Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report on September 25. “And with shot-makers like AJ Griffin and Bogdan Bogdanović coming off the bench, and Onyeka Okonwu playing a finisher role, Bufkin’s focus should be on playmaking.”
Atlanta has veteran Patty Mills on hand to take on backup point guard duties from the outset. He is coming off a strong showing in the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
But Hawks general manager Landry Fields has always said Bufkin will play early.
“He could probably be pretty rangey with his athletic ability and defensive ability,” Fields said on draft night via atlhawksfans on YouTube. “Even the floor as a player, with where he’s at today…he’ll be a guy that plays sooner rather than later.”
He got off to a rough start during Las Vegas Summer League but settled in as things went on and finished the slate strong. Bufkin profiles very similarly to Dejounte Murray in that both are longer lead guard types whose greatest question mark is perimeter shooting. Bufkin shot 35.5% from deep as a sophomore at Michigan but just 13.8% during summer league.
Focusing on being a distributor could help simplify things for Bufkin early on, particularly as he works on being a more consistent shooter.
“Young Fella Up Next,” Trae Young said in the caption of a picture shared on Instagram.
Hawks held onto Kobe Bufkin instead of win-now trade
Selecting Bufkin in the draft is proof enough that the Hawks liked Bufkin. But that affinity was confirmed with reports that they held onto him instead of including him in a package for one of their long-rumored trade targets.
“The Hawks were unwilling to part with rookie guard Kobe Bufkin in trade talks for [Toronto Raptors forward Pascal] Siakam,” wrote Michael Scotto of HoopsHype on September 13, citing sources with knowledge of the situation. “Coach Quin Snyder is said to be high on the former Michigan guard.”
Toronto was high on Bufkin pre-draft and the youngster was also thought to be the potential “swing piece” in a trade for Siakam.
Atlanta’s other offers have also been turned away.
“If the Atlanta Hawks really want to add Pascal Siakam…it appears the Georgia outfit will have to try a little harder to entice the Raptors,” wrote Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun on August 9.
Toronto’s contract extension talks with Siakam have stalled, per Michael Grange of Sportsnet on September 27. With Damian Lillard traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, Siakam’s is one of two high-profile unresolved situations that were thought to be holding up other league business. The other is James Harden’s continued tenure with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Perhaps both can finally get resolutions now, though if the Hawks get involved, they’d be wise to keep Bufkin out of it.