The Atlanta Hawks are unearthing a diamond in the rough of Trae Young's absence

Atlanta Hawks first-round pick Kobe Bufkin is showing why he was picked just outside the lottery with his play since Trae Young was ruled out.

Feb 27, 2024; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Utah Jazz forward Brice Sensabaugh (8) reaches for a loose ball
Feb 27, 2024; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Utah Jazz forward Brice Sensabaugh (8) reaches for a loose ball / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

When the Atlanta Hawks effectively ruled Trae Young out for the season, fans and all of those associated with the team could have been forgiven for expecting the worst. However, with Young out and Trent Forrest being ineligible to play, the Hawks have had to go in a different direction. It appears that it is paying off, at least in the short term.

Dejounte Murray has stepped up, almost collecting a triple double against the Orlando Magic and collecting a double-double against the Utah Jazz. However, the improvement has come from elsewhere with the communication of the Hawks on defense improving per Jalen Johnson.

This is a sign of the next man up mentality and the biggest exponent of this has been none other than rookie Kobe Bufkin. The 15th pick of the 2023 NBA draft was recalled from the G League and shown that he has put in the hard work which will allow him to get more court time with the varsity squad.

The Atlanta Hawks first-round pick Kobe Bufkin showed more against the Utah Jazz

Bufkin showed a little more of his capabilities during the game against the Jazz. Due to the nature of the blowout he played the most minutes of his career but he was on track to do that anyway. It was wise of coach Quin Snyder to play the rookie for this time to see what he could bring to the floor.

He collected a statline of seven points, five assists, two rebounds, and two steals in 21 minutes of action. He shot the ball reasonably well, going 3-of-7 from the floor, and 1-of-2 from beyond the arc. He hit one of his patented runners in the third period, showing the development that he has acheived from playing in the G League.

However, it was not the stats or the efficiency that impressed the most from this game, it was the intensity that he played with on the defensive end. Two plays stick out the most. Jordan Clarkson was driving to the hoop and Bufkin managed to get his hands on the ball and tie him up, forcing a jump ball. While the Hawks lost the jump, it was a good sign that he could stop one of the Jazz's biggest offensive threats in his tracks.

The second play was at the end of the third where there was a loose ball and with no thought for himself, Bufkin dove to the floor in an effort to secure it. While this is only a couple of plays, the rookie is showing the coaching staff that he is willing to go the extra mile for the team.

It is this kind of play that is going to get Bufkin more playing time, even if Young is able to return this season. It is also another reason that the defense of the entire team is improving. When you have a player willing to put his body on the line, the rest of the team follows his example. This is the energy that young players bring to a team.