NBA draft grades for Jett Howard, Kobe Bufkin picks: ‘I’m a little confused’

The grades are in for the 2023 NBA draft, where experts weigh in on all 58 picks made Thursday night. Two Michigan players were selected: Jett Howard was selected 11th overall by the Orlando Magic and Kobe Bufkin was selected 15th overall by the Atlanta Hawks. Evaluators thought Atlanta made a wise choice; they weren’t so sure about Orlando.

Below is a sampling of NBA draft analysis as it pertains to the two Wolverines.

CBS Sports (Adam Finkelstein)

Howard: “This pick is one of the first real head-scratchers of the night. The son of Michigan coach Juwan Howard is one of the best hard-hitting shooters in the draft and has solid positional size. But he’s a defensive liability, and even though he can shoot, there are better shooters on the board to help Orlando with that problem (Jordan Hawkins and Gradey Dick). Many expected him to be drafted toward the end of Round 1, not in the lottery. Grade: C+”

Bufkin: “A late-blooming guard that some people had in the top 10 made big strides this year. People have to understand how young Bufkin is as an explanation for his low impact as a freshman in 2021-22 — he’s younger than many one-and-done players this year. Bufkin can play on or off the ball and provide insurance for the Hawks who determine what the future holds with Trae Young. Grade: A-“

SB Nation (Ricky O’Donnell)

Howard: “This one was a bit of a surprise, but I really like it for Orlando. The Magic needed a shooter. Most assumed Kansas’ Gradey Dick would have been the pick here, but Howard is almost as good with his jumper while still being a superior shot creator off the dribble. The problem with Howard is that he is not a great athlete and struggles defensively. Well, the Magic got a great defender in Anthony Black with their first pick in this draft. Howard’s size (6′8) and shooting fit right in with Orlando’s promising core.Grade: B+”

Bufkin: “Bufkin is a 6′5 guard who can play on or off the ball. He was a great finisher at the rim, a good shooter from three-point range, and he impressed with his on-ball defense. He’s not an elite athlete and he’ll need to add strength to his frame, but he’s one of the most well-rounded guards in this draft. Bufkin can fit with either Dejounte Murray or Trae Young in the backcourt, and it will be fascinating to see if all three can play together. Grade: B+”

Related: For Michigan basketball, the NBA draft is a reminder of what could have been

Bleacher Report (Zach Buckley)

Howard: “The Magic went into the night with a clear need to shoot, and using No. 6 on Anthony Black did little to address that. Clearly that was the motivation behind this pick, but it could be the first big reach of the night. Howard has the NBA pedigree as the son of longtime pro (and his college coach) Juwan Howard, plus the size, shooting and basketball IQ to carve out a long career for himself. … But he’s not a great athlete by NBA standards, and that could limit his utility as a defender. … If the Magic were fine with a shooting specialist, why not Gradey Dick or Jordan Hawkins instead? If they wanted to shoot and more, why not stop Cam Whitmore’s skid here? This one is a puzzle. Grade: D”

Bufkin: “The Hawks may not have gone out at night looking at a guard, but they were smart to pounce on talent and value here. … Getting him No. 15 is a potential trade. … He’s a real combo guard as he is able to run an offense or add value off the ball. … He is a good enough defender to share the floor with Trae Young, a good enough shooter to play alongside Dejounte Murray and a good enough creator to run the offense when both need a breather Grade: A-”

ESPN (Kevin Pelton)

Bufkin: “The Hawks’ deep rotation gave them the luxury of taking the best player available with the first pick outside the lottery. Bufkin, expected to go a few picks higher, fits the bill. How he fits into a backcourt with Dejounte Murray and Trae Young is unclear, but when Bufkin is ready to step into a bigger role, Atlanta’s guard rotation could look completely different.”

Howard: “Howard going ahead of Michigan teammate Bufkin was one of the biggest surprises of the night. Considering where Howard was projected (20th in ESPN’s final mock draft), it seems like a failure to maximize value to draft him without moving back.”

Related: Jett Howard interviewed while Michigan teammate Kobe Bufkin was selected in the NBA draft

The Athletic (Sam Vecenie and John Hollinger)

Howard: “Howard’s evaluation comes down to how much improvement you think you can make in his defensive mechanics and what kind of scheme you plan to run. … His versatile shooting moves and off pull-ups give him an extremely high ceiling as offensive player, especially when mixed with the fact that he can pass and play a little bit on the fly. … The idea here is that he can be an impact player in the vein of a Kevin Huerter, someone who has turned into an extremely valuable piece for the Kings. But to get to that level, he has to improve defensively. I think I’m just a little bit lower on him than the consensus because of that.” — Vecenie

Howard: “This is the second year in a row that the Magic have drafted a limited one-and-done from Michigan with a rep as a shooter; Howard can now battle Caleb Houston for minutes behind Orlando’s abundance of forwards. Honestly, I’m a little confused here; if Orlando wanted a pure shooter, the best bet on the board was clearly Gradey Dick. … I have to think trading down would still have let them get Howard if he was their guy.” — Hollinger

Bufkin: “Bufkin is one of the guys that I want to be the highest on compared to the consensus this year. I love how well-rounded his game is and how many of his traits translate. … And his ability to play both on and off the ball will allow him to play with stars at a high level. Bufkin has starter upside in the long term. And if he can develop a little more game off the bounce to separate himself from his man, there’s even a little more upside beyond that in the highest potential results.” — Vecenie

Bufkin: “Can’t argue with this one. I thought the Hawks wanted another guard here to complement the backcourt where Dejounte Murray may leave after this season and Bogdan Bogdanovic is perpetually questionable. I had a lottery pick on Bufkin and liked him much better than his Michigan teammate Howard (the 11th pick) when I saw both play in person.With Bufkin rumored to be in play as high as 9, Atlanta must be incredibly happy they got him without had to change.” — Hollinger

Also see: Orlando Wolverines? Jett Howard the latest from Michigan to Magic

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