Kobe Bufkin

Southeast Notes: Coulibaly, Rozier, Hawks Injuries, Fultz

Wizards rookie wing Bilal Coulibaly is out for the rest of the season with a wrist injury, but he left a strong impression on his teammates and coaching staff in his first year in the league, Chase Hughes of Monumental Sports Network writes, cementing his place as one of the franchise’s cornerstones moving forward.

Fantastic [season]. He made the Rising Stars Challenge. Going to All-Star weekend in your first year is huge,Jordan Poole told MSN. “He got a lot of playing time, a lot of experience, which is huge, especially for a rookie… he had a really good season and I’m excited for his future.

Coulibaly, 19, averaged 8.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 0.8 blocks per game while often guarding opposing star players like Luka Doncic and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as the season wore on, Hughes writes.

Interim head coach Brian Keefe raved about Coulibaly’s work ethic as he heads into his first full NBA offseason. According to Hughes, Keefe described the rookie’s maturity as “beyond his years.”

There’s still going to be growth, there’s still going to be an opportunity to learn,” teammate Anthony Gill said. “But this offseason is going to be very important for him getting stronger and understanding his body more, understanding the game and getting more confident in what he can do at a high level. It’s going to be a very important offseason for him, but I know he’s ready to attack it. We’ve already talked about it.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Terry Rozier‘s transition to the Heat hasn’t gone smoothly at times, with the ex-Hornet having endured an injury, a three-point shooting slump and the Heat’s longest losing streak since 2008. However, as The Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang writes, games like the one Rozier had on Wednesday against the Cavaliers make it all worth it. He scored nine points in the final 1:24 of the game to lead Miami to a much-needed victory. Heat players and coaches are continuing to tell Rozier to be aggressive, Chiang writes, since his usage rate and shot volume have decreased.
  • The Hawks provided injury updates for several players on Thursday. Kobe Bufkin (toe) was reevaluated Tuesday and is making progress from his toe sprain. He’ll be reevaluated again in seven-to-10 days. AJ Griffin (ankle) underwent an MRI on Wednesday, confirming a right high ankle sprain. He’ll also be reevaluated in seven-to-10 days. Jalen Johnson (ankle) left Monday’s game against the Lakers due to a right ankle sprain, and he’ll be looked at again in one week.
  • Magic guard Markelle Fultz continues to face obstacles in his seven-year NBA career, having gone from being touted as the final piece of Philadelphia’s “The Process” to enduring numerous injuries to being traded to Orlando, where he has become a rotation player. As The Ringer’s Nick Friedell observes, Fultz is still just 25 years old despite his long road to where he is today. “I think a lot of people forget that,” Fultz said. “And I forget it as well. And at the same time, I feel like I’m older because I’ve been through so much.” Friedell examines how Fultz is building himself into a different kind of cornerstone for the Magic.

Southeast Notes: Richardson, Rozier, Hawks, Magic, Bridges

Injuries have been a season-long issue for the Heat, who may have lost two more players in Sunday’s game, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. MRIs are scheduled today for Josh Richardson and Terry Rozier, creating more potential challenges as coach Erik Spoelstra works to develop a consistent lineup.

Richardson fell to the court and grabbed his right shoulder early in the second quarter, according to Chiang. After being helped up, he headed to the locker room for an X-ray that came back negative. He was wearing a sling after the game.

“I felt my shoulder pop out on the floor and then pop back in when I was laying on the ground,” Richardson said. “So thank goodness for that. But I’ll know more (Monday).”

Rozier was hurt midway through the third quarter when he landed awkwardly on his right leg on an attempted layup. Trainers had to help him to the locker room as well.

Chiang points out that if Richardson and Rozier have to miss significant time, that leaves Tyler Herro and two-way player Alondes Williams as the only healthy guards on Miami’s roster.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Hawks general manager Landry Fields said signs of progress from the current roster convinced him to stand pat at the trade deadline, per Lauren Williams of The Journal-Constitution. Dejounte Murray was considered one of the top names on the market, but Fields believes there’s value in keeping the current team together. “We’ve seen an uptick with Onyeka (Okongwu),” he said. “We’ve seen an uptick with Jalen Johnson. We’ve seen an uptick with Saddiq Bey, and I can go right down the line even down to (the G League team in) College Park where, Kobe Bufkin is developing extremely well in that environment.”
  • The same approach was taken by Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman, whose team was also quiet at the deadline despite having “lengthy conversations” with some teams, according to Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel. “We’re very happy with where we are right now from a big-picture standpoint,” Weltman said. “We weren’t going to be overly aggressive, we weren’t going to get out of our comfort zone and we certainly weren’t going to deviate from our plan.”
  • Hornets forward Miles Bridges, whose name was involved in trade rumors over the last several weeks, is relieved that deadline speculation is finally over, notes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Bridges said several times that he prefers to stay in Charlotte and ultimately decided to use his veto power to reject any deal the team might have made. “This was my first year dealing with all that,” he said of the deadline rumors. “Me, I’m happy so I can just focus on the season and focus on trying to get us some wins.”

Hawks Announce Several Injury Updates

Hawks forward Jalen Johnson has been cleared to resume practicing in full, the team announced today in a press release, adding that Johnson’s status will be updated “as appropriate.”

Johnson was in the midst of a breakout season before suffering a left distal radius fracture on November 25. In his 14 healthy games this year, the 22-year-old averaged 14.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 31.4 minutes per night, with a .590/.421/.774 shooting line.

The Hawks have gone 3-8 without Johnson and have a +4.6 net rating when he’s on the court this season, which is the highest mark for any player on the roster. The fact that he seems to be nearing a return is great news for the slumping club.

Here are a few more injury updates announced today by the Hawks:

  • Hawks rookie guard Kobe Bufkin, who fractured his left thumb on November 2, has also been cleared to practice in full. His recovery timeline was said to be eight-to-10 weeks from the date of his injury, which occurred approximately seven weeks ago, so it sounds like his return isn’t far off.
  • Another rookie, forward Mouhamed Gueye, underwent a CT scan on his right low back stress fracture on Monday and has been given the go-ahead to begin light on-court individual work. Gueye isn’t close to returning, however, with Atlanta announcing he’ll be reevaluated four weeks from now.
  • Bogdan Bogdanovic, who has missed the past two games due to right ankle inflammation, received treatment on Tuesday and is questionable to play in Wednesday’s game vs. Houston.
  • Reserve forward AJ Griffin remains unavailable for personal reasons and will miss a fifth consecutive game on Wednesday. The 2022 first-rounder hasn’t been a part of the Hawks’ regular rotation this season, averaging just 9.2 minutes per game in 12 appearances.

Hawks’ Bufkin, Gueye Will Miss Extended Time

The Hawks will be without two of their rookies for an extended period, according to a team press release.

Guard Kobe Bufkin underwent an X-ray and medical review on his fractured left thumb on Saturday. His return to play timeline is eight-to-10 weeks from the date of injury, which occurred on Nov. 2.

Bufkin was injured during a practice with the team’s G League club, the College Park Skyhawks.

Bufkin, a guard out of Michigan, was the first player taken outside the lottery this June. The 15th overall pick has made two cameo appearances with the Hawks.

Forward Mouhamed Gueye, who has missed the last two games with a right lower back strain, underwent an MRI on Saturday that revealed a right low back stress fracture. He will be reevaluated in four weeks.

Like Bufkin, Gueye made two brief NBA appearances prior to the injury.

Gueye was the 39th overall pick, which the Hawks acquired in a draft-night trade with the Celtics. Gueye signed a four-year, $7.64MM deal in July.

Hawks’ Kobe Bufkin Has Thumb Fracture

Hawks rookie Kobe Bufkin has a left thumb fracture suffered during a practice with the team’s G League club, the College Park Skyhawks, on Thursday night, Lauren Williams of the Atlanta Journal Constitution tweets via a team press release.

Bufkin, a guard out of Michigan, was the first player taken outside the lottery this June. The 15th overall pick has made two cameo appearances with the Hawks.

Bufkin will be reevaluated in two weeks, so he won’t be available for Atlanta in the near future.

While the Hawks aren’t depending on Bufkin this season, it’s still a setback for a player they hope will develop into a starter. Bufkin zoomed up draft boards due to his shooting ability and versatility. He averaged 14.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.3 steals in his second and final season with the Wolverines.

Scotto’s Latest: Bufkin, Wizards, Payton, Las Vegas

The Hawks tried to trade for Raptors forward Pascal Siakam this summer, but they weren’t willing to part with first-round pick Kobe Bufkin, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Atlanta’s offers focused on De’Andre HunterAJ Griffin and draft picks, but Bufkin wasn’t included, sources tell Scotto.

Toronto considered selecting Bufkin with the 13th pick before opting for Gradey Dick, Scotto adds. He also hears that Hawks coach Quin Snyder is a huge proponent of Bufkin, who is coming off an impressive sophomore season at Michigan.

Scotto notes that Atlanta’s options will expand when Bogdan Bogdanovic becomes trade-eligible on Saturday. The veteran swingman, who was named to the All-Star 5 at the World Cup, is under contract for $68MM over the next four years, including a $16MM team option for 2026/27.

Scotto offers more inside information from around the league:

  • The Wizards aren’t looking to make a move right away, but they expect to get trade offers for Danilo Gallinari, Landry Shamet and Delon Wright. Scotto points out that Gallinari at $6.8MM and Wright at $8.2MM both have expiring contracts. Shamet is signed for three more years, but his only guaranteed money is $10.25MM for 2023/24. Sources tell Scotto that Gallinari hasn’t engaged in buyout talks with the Wizards and is focused on making a comeback after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. The Hornets considered making a trade offer for Wright before targeting Frank Ntilikina instead, Scotto adds, and league executives told him that Washington could probably get a second-round pick or two in exchange for the veteran guard.
  • Elfrid Payton recently had workouts with the Timberwolves and Hornets, sources told Scotto. Payton spent part of last season in the G League, then signed to play in Puerto Rico in late March. He hasn’t been in the NBA since playing 50 games with the Suns during the 2021/22 season.
  • When Las Vegas hosts the semifinals and finals of the in-season tournament in December, the response could go a long way toward securing an expansion team for the city, multiple executives told Scotto. The NBA has been expanding its presence in Las Vegas in recent years with the annual Summer League and the G League Showcase. Seattle and Las Vegas are widely considered the leading contenders for the next round of expansion.

Hawks Sign First-Round Pick Kobe Bufkin

The Hawks have signed first-round pick Kobe Bufkin to a rookie scale contract, according to a team press release.

As the 15th overall pick, Bufkin will make $4,094,280 in his rookie season. His four-year contract is worth $19,801,203.

Bufkin appeared in 61 games (33 starts) throughout his two-year career at Michigan, averaging 9.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 23.3 minutes. The 6-4 guard started 33 games last season, averaging 14.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.3 steals in 34.0 minutes.

Bufkin moved up the draft board due to his offensive skills and he’ll compete for backcourt minutes behind starters Trae Young and Dejounte Murray.

The salary figures represent 120% of the rookie scale amount, which first-rounders typically sign. Rookie scale contracts are guaranteed for the first two years, with team options on the third and fourth years.

Draft Notes: Bufkin, Wizards, Nets, Jazz, Hornets, Hawks, More

The Wizards recently hosted Michigan guard Kobe Bufkin for a private workout, Michael Scotto reports in his latest aggregate mock draft for HoopsHype.

Bufkin hasn’t worked out for many teams, and his draft status has been somewhat mysterious because of that, though many seem to believe his stock is on the rise. He’s currently ranked No. 18 on ESPN’s best available list, while the Wizards control the No. 8 pick.

Here are a few more notes ahead of the 2023 NBA draft, which kicks off in less than three hours:

  • The Nets recently hosted several potential first-round picks for workouts, including Ohio State’s Brice Sensabaugh, South Carolina’s G.G. Jackson, France’s Sidy Cissoko, and Marquette’s Olivier-Maxence Prosper, league sources tell Scotto. Brooklyn currently controls the 21st and 22nd picks in the first round, but the team has reportedly discussed moving up as well.
  • The Jazz have had trade discussions involving packaging two of their three first-rounders (Nos. 9 and 16), according to Scotto, but they’ve also discussed the latter pick on its own in separate deals.
  • Scotto hears from sources who say the Hornets plan to prioritize retaining restricted free agents Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington as well as unrestricted free agent Dennis Smith Jr. Bridges missed all of last season after pleading no contest to felony domestic violence charges.
  • The Hawks have been active in trade discussions, but they’ve also been busy working out prospects. On Tuesday, Atlanta hosted Cason Wallace (Kentucky), Rayan Rupert (New Zealand Breakers), Brandin Podziemski (Santa Clara), Mojave King (G League Ignite), Seth Lundy (Penn State) and Miles Norris (UC Santa Barbara), tweets Lauren L. Williams of The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. The Hawks control the Nos. 15 and 46 picks. Incidentally, Wallace is the top-ranked prospect of the group according to ESPN, currently ranked No. 15 on their board.
  • Wichita State guard Craig Porter Jr. recently spoke to Alex Kennedy of BasketballNews.com about a number of topics ahead of the draft.

Trade Rumors: Lakers, Kuminga, Nets, LaVine, Raptors

There has been growing buzz in recent days that the Lakers are increasingly more likely to trade their first-round pick (No. 17) than to keep it, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic. In his latest story, Buha explores all the possibilities in play for Los Angeles, including hanging onto the pick, trading out of the draft, or trading down.

As Buha writes, the idea of the Lakers packaging the No. 17 pick with Malik Beasley ($16.5MM team option) and/or Mohamed Bamba ($10.3MM) to acquire a starter-caliber player appears more viable than ever. League sources say that Pacers center Myles Turner and sharpshooter Buddy Hield, Nets wings Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O’Neale, and Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. are among the players who have been linked to the Lakers.

While it sounds less likely than trading down or out of the draft, Buha says the Lakers have at least considered the possibility of trying to move up from No. 17. Dereck Lively and Kobe Bufkin are among the prospects the club likes, a source tells The Athletic.

Here are more trade rumors from around the NBA:

  • Addressing a report from last week that suggested the Warriors have explored moving up in the draft using Jonathan Kuminga, Anthony Slater of The Athletic provides some additional context, writing that rumor stemmed from an inbound call from a lottery team that has long been interested in Kuminga. Multiple sources tell Slater that Golden State isn’t shopping the young forward.
  • While the lottery team that called the Warriors about Kuminga is unknown, it’s worth noting that Slater uses the Pacers as an example in his discussion of that scenario. Additionally, when ESPN updated its mock draft on Wednesday (subscription required), Jonathan Givony added Kuminga to the list of forwards the Pacers may explore acquiring via trade.
  • In the latest episode of The Lowe Post podcast (YouTube link), ESPN’s Zach Lowe said the Nets‘ asking prices for forwards Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O’Neale have been high. Brooklyn is seeking “real first-round pick equity” for those players, not just looking to move up a few spots in the draft, according to Lowe.
  • Despite reports that they’re gauging his trade market, the Bulls continue to value Zach LaVine very highly, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago, who hears from one league source that the team would seek a good young player, multiple first-round picks, and salary filler if LaVine is moved. Another league source thinks a single first-rounder might be sufficient if the Bulls could get an “established, high-end” player back.
  • Toronto has been involved in a series of trade rumors so far this offseason, but a pair of sources who spoke to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca indicated that they wouldn’t be surprised if the Raptors don’t do anything drastic. “What I’m hearing now is they’re not going to trade from their core,” one source told Grange.

Spurs Rumors: Wembanyama, Vassell, Johnson, Draft

While a previous report indicated that Victor Wembanyama likely wouldn’t play in Summer League games this July, he told reporters on Wednesday that he plans to do so, as Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press relays (via Twitter).

The Spurs and Wembanyama will likely sort out the specifics after he’s officially drafted on Thursday, but LJ Ellis of Spurs Talk gets the sense that the team will probably allow the big man to suit up if he wants to.

As Ellis explains, while the Spurs will likely want to be as cautious as possible with a player they expect to build their franchise around for the foreseeable future, Wembanyama takes pride in his availability and has conveyed that he wants to play as much as possible after not missing a single game in France this past season. That means he’ll want to take part in Summer League and this year’s World Cup before aiming to play all 82 games as a rookie.

While the Spurs won’t want to push Wembanyama too hard as he adjusts to the more rigorous NBA schedule next season, it sounds like they won’t stand in the way of him playing for France in the World Cup, Ellis writes.

Here’s more on the Spurs:

  • San Antonio is open to the idea of hiring some of the personal trainers that have worked with Wembanyama and kept him healthy so far in his professional career, according to Ellis. Those discussions are expected to begin after he’s officially drafted on Thursday.
  • The Spurs don’t appear inclined to offer Devin Vassell or Keldon Johnson as they continue to look into acquiring an additional 2023 first-round pick, according to Ellis. General manager Brian Wright said as much earlier this week. However, the club has made future draft assets available in an effort to land a second lottery selection, Ellis writes, adding that Anthony Black, Kobe Bufkin, and Bilal Coulibaly have been cited most often as possible San Antonio targets.
  • A scout previously suggested to Ellis that the Spurs may pursue a veteran point guard like Fred VanVleet or Chris Paul this offseason, but a team source essentially shot down that idea. “The plan is to avoid big, costly mistakes and to slowly build this thing out,” the source told Ellis. “See what you have first, see what you need, see what can be grown organically and go from there.”