Hawks first-round pick is ESPN’s slowest-starting rookie

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The Hawks have had some success in the first round of the past few NBA drafts. Dating back to John Collins in 2017, Atlanta has done fairly well considering their draft positions under Travis Schlenk — Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, Onyeka Okongwu, Jalen Johnson, and A.J. Griffin. Most recently, the new regime selected Kobe Bufkin in their first draft cycle.

The Michigan product projects as a well-rounded combo guard that can play on and off the ball while contributing on the defensive end of the court. He was also heralded for his basketball IQ, which is important for a Quin Snyder-led team. However, his Hawks debut went about as poorly as it could have during Summer League, outside of a game-winner against the 76ers.

Through five games in the Las Vegas Summer League, Bufkin averaged 14 points, 3.6 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game on very inefficient shooting — 33.3% from the field and 13.8% from beyond the arc. What’s even more concerning was the 4.6 turnovers and 3.4 fouls per game. It’s why ESPN had the Hawks’ rookie as the slowest-starting first-year player.

Bufkin’s 4-of-29 shooting from 3-point range (13%) isn’t particularly concerning given the small sample. We know Bufkin, who hit 35.5% from the shorter college line, is more accurate than that. Given the keys to the summer Hawks’ offense, however, Bufkin also led all players with 4.6 turnovers per game against 3.6 APG.

With Dejounte Murray signing a contract extension to stick alongside Trae Young, Atlanta doesn’t really need Bufkin to run the offense for extended stretches any time soon, so he can develop as more of a combo guard. On the plus side, Bufkin scored the game winner last Thursday as the Hawks beat Philadelphia.

Summer League stats should be taken with a grain of salt; Trae Young struggled mightily during his rookie campaign. Coming out of Oklahoma, Young led the nation in points and assists but only put up 17 points and 6.8 assists per contest on terrible shooting — 38.3% from the field. It wasn’t encouraging, but development is never linear.

Trae Young is now one of the best facilitators in the NBA to go along with 25+ points per game. I’m not saying Kobe Bufkin is going to turn into an All-NBA talent; in fact, it’s highly unlikely. However, the notion that he’s going to be a bust already is lazy. The Hawks don’t need Bufkin to be on the ball much with Young and Dejounte Murray in the fold, but it was smart to try him out at point guard first.

Photographer: Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire

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