2023 Mock Draft 2.0: Spurs roll the dice, Hornets win Wembanyama sweepstakes
It feels as if the Toronto Raptors are at a crossroads with their roster, particularly after Nick Nurse’s dismissal, so this is yet another team that could be wildly unpredictable on draft night and beyond. I think the team’s only truly safe player is former Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes as the team has made it pretty clear that he’s untouchable in trade talks. So, while I don’t necessarily think the Raptors are eager to part ways with Pascal Siakam or OG Anunoby, finding a player that makes sense next to Barnes is at the forefront of my mind here.
Anthony Black is likely the best player available at this point in the draft, but Kobe Bufkin strikes me as a player that teams can’t really go wrong with, and considering where the Raptors are in their team-building process at the moment, I think the slightly safer and more versatile option makes a bit more sense here. Bufkin is capable of running the offense as a primary ball-handler when the rock isn’t in Barnes’ hands, but he can also play off of Barnes as an efficient scorer when Barnes takes on lead guard duties.
This selection should not be considered a reach, however, as Bufkin certainly has lottery-worthy upside of his own and could be picked even earlier than this. He has good size at roughly 6’4”, plays aggressive defense—on and off the ball—despite having a tendency to gamble, and was impressively efficient around the rim and at the free-throw line, indicating that better three-point shooting is very realistic in the near future.
This selection gives the Raptors a ball-handling guard that can contribute now on both ends of the floor in a complementary role within the current roster. But if the Raptors were to take the plunge into a rebuild and begin fielding more offers for Siakam and Anunoby, Bufkin is versatile enough and has enough long-term upside to be a serious building block next to Scottie Barnes as well.