Raptors’ No. 13 pick: Kobe Bufkin is a three-level scoring combo guard
Amit Mann is joined by Tyler Rucker of NoCeilingsNBA to analyze why Kobe Bufkin could be the Raptors’ best option at No.13 in the 2023 NBA Draft. Listen to the full episode on players the Raptors will consider with their first-round lottery pick on the ‘Raptors Over Everything’ podcast feed.
AMIT MANN: Who do you think are the two or three guys that are probably going to be there for the Toronto Raptors that you're like, you probably should nab them.
TYLER RUCKER: You know, I think one name that is starting to get a lot of steam in draft circles, that I think there's a realistic shot he could be on the board and could be the type of player that Toronto has a history of targeting, is Michigan's Kobe Bufkin.
AMIT MANN: Yeah.
TYLER RUCKER: I think that's a popular name to-- if you haven't gotten up to date on his game, he's a really, really impressive player. Just one of those guys that I think everyone that knows ceilings, myself included, we keep talking about him throughout the year. We've been like, someone's going to get a steal with this kid. Like he just does a lot of stuff on the court, smart player, intelligent, kind of plays at his speed, makes the defense come down to his level.
And he's also a pest offensively. He's got good length. He measured around 6'4" without shoes at the combine. So he's got good length.
And just a smart player. Freshman year didn't play that much. Last year, or this year, just fantastic season, just a huge burst. And he's still really young. Technically, he should be a freshman. That's-- I think he just turned 19 in February, off the top of my head.
AMIT MANN: Mm-hmm.
TYLER RUCKER: That's a name I would keep an eye on. It's-- I like Toronto's spot. Because there's some names, I think, that could just slip through the cracks. And they could get some good value.
AMIT MANN: Yeah
TYLER RUCKER: You know there's like a movement shooter, like Jordan Hawkins of UConn's been a really, really popular name. If you're trying to get someone to play along Scottie Barnes, that could just put up buckets in a hurry and kind of create a new wrinkle with his movement shooting and running off screens and everything like that.
And then there's the Jet Howard's. There's the Gradey Dick that should be in that territory. So there's some really interesting names.
And I haven't even brought up Chianti George. But there's a lot of offense, a lot of shooting that could be in that range. And that could be where there's a start of the floor spacers in this class.
AMIT MANN: So sticking on Kobe for a second. Because that's been a pretty trendy, trendy name amongst the Raptor fan base. He seems like a player that could really be a three level scorer in the NBA.
TYLER RUCKER: Yes.
AMIT MANN: And that, I think that's a skill set that is a bit underrated. Especially in today's NBA, where there are so many players that are designated roles. And even though you could be able to be a two level scorer, maybe you've got a bit of mid-range and youth that you believe in, you're not really given the leash to do that. But Kobe seems like the guy that's going to come into the NBA and you're going to see it right off the bat.
TYLER RUCKER: Yeah, I-- he's just one of those guys, every single time I've turned on tape, Kobe Bufkin is one of those, like, this is just awesome to watch. Like it's just pleasant how many different areas of the game he impacts. And when you're talking about the three level scoring, like his outside shot is trending in the right direction in a hurry.
He's shooting like high 80% from the free throw line. He's got good touch, good form, he's consistent. He's patient when it comes to navigating screens, getting to his spots.
He's really intelligent with the ball in his hands. Like he understands how to work angles and attack windows to get to his spots on the court. And that's where I think the mid-range comes alive. And then he's very crafty to finish around the basket.
AMIT MANN: Yeah
TYLER RUCKER: So you're talking about a potential combo guard with good size, good length still young, and on the right developmental paths, where we haven't seen his best basketball of his. And I think that's the type of player, especially for the Raptors, you might get him in there and be like, OK, we've got two smart players with Scottie Barnes and Kobe Bufkin.
And Bufkin just has this-- he gives me a lot of Mike Conley vibes. You know, he's bigger than Mike Conley. But he just plays that game under control, poised.
AMIT MANN: Yeah.
TYLER RUCKER: So he's a really popular name right now.
AMIT MANN: Turns 20 this year, right?
TYLER RUCKER: Yes. Yeah. So that would scare a lot of other teams away. But not the Toronto Raptors. They have no problem taking a 22-year-old, 21-year-old.
Which could be a reason why he could be available at the latter parts of the lottery. Other teams are going to say, yeah, but he's 20 years old. And the Raptors are like, he's only 20? That's perfect!
TYLER RUCKER: Right. Right.
AMIT MANN: I love that kind of stuff. I look at this Raptors team now, and if you watched this past season, having players that could truly operate in the pick and roll, and just have that kind of patience in the pick and roll, and comfortable navigating through spaces has been a problem. They really only had Fred VanVleet. And he was overtaxed. He was given a lot of reps that probably he shouldn't have been given all those reps. But there was truly nobody else.
And so I think that they realize this. I mean, I hope that they do realize that there has to be a scoring pop coming off from their guards. And I don't know if there really is an option, necessarily, on this team right now, in terms of a person developing into that. So I think they have to go this route.
And that's why Kobe, he seems like a kind of a natural fit in that capacity. And also you like that he's 6'4". It's not huge. But for a guard, when we're talking about combo guards, that's a huge asset in today's NBA. Because especially now, with the way team's scheme, 6'4" could mean that you're also guarding 3's. You know?
TYLER RUCKER: Right. Right. Absolutely. And I think one of the-- what I love about him, and the pick and roll, also, is he's a really intelligent passer. So you're talking about, he's coming off, he's setting up defenders, he's coming off screens, and throwing live dribble cross court passes for wide open shooters. He understands how to hit the roll man.
He's just a really smart player that doesn't play sped up. Like he's quick, but he's not in a hurry. Like he's really under control. And I think--
AMIT MANN: Oh, man, that's important. Sorry, not to interrupt you. But--
TYLER RUCKER: No--
AMIT MANN: Knowing how to operate-- knowing how to operate at your own pace is so key.
TYLER RUCKER: Yes. And Jet Howard went down for Michigan for a while. And they needed someone badly to step up. And Kobe Bufkin stepped up. And just one of these guys that I think all of a sudden the confidence was surging throughout the year. And you're like, whoa, OK!
And it's one of those when you go back and watched all of his films throughout the year, you just see some really impressive stuff on a nightly basis of just the competitiveness. And one of my favorite areas of his is his defense. I mean, he has unbelievably lethal hands when it comes to just quick point of attack. Like he gets a lot of steals from just getting right up in you and applying ball pressure. So got a lot of-- checks a lot of boxes.