The NBA journey for Atlanta Hawks rookies Kobe Bufkin and Mouhamed Gueye, chosen as the 15th and 39th overall picks in the 2023 draft, has encountered initial roadblocks. Both players, frequently absent or designated as Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision (DNP-CD) in the early games of this season, are navigating setbacks due to injuries.
Bufkin, a highly touted prospect, is presently nursing a fractured thumb, while Gueye is on the sidelines dealing with a “back strain.” The latest updates on their conditions suggest a challenging path for their immediate playing prospects.
In an official announcement on November 12, the team revealed that Kobe Bufkin underwent an X-ray and medical evaluation for a left thumb fracture sustained on November 2. The team specified, “His anticipated return to play is within the range of 8 to 10 weeks from the date of the injury,” suggesting that Bufkin is likely to be sidelined until at least December 28, with the possibility of a more extended recovery extending until the Hawks face the Indiana Pacers.
Bufkin’s statistical contributions this season have been modest, with averages of 0.5 points and 1.0 rebounds in just two appearances. Initially slated to gain valuable experience with the College Park Skyhawks in the G League, Bufkin’s injury has disrupted his developmental trajectory.
On the other hand, Mouhamed Gueye, absent from the last two games due to a right lower back strain, underwent an MRI on November 11. The MRI revealed a right lower back stress fracture, and he is set to be re-evaluated in four weeks. If the projected timeline holds, Gueye might remain sidelined until December 11 at the earliest, aligning with the Hawks’ matchup against the reigning champion Denver Nuggets.
While neither Bufkin nor Gueye was expected to play a substantial role for the main team, their injuries signify setbacks for both the players and the team. Missing out on crucial developmental opportunities in the G League and the experience of observing established Hawks players from the sidelines presents a dual challenge to their early NBA journeys. Bufkin, particularly, faces a hurdle in his path to NBA minutes despite the competition in the Hawks’ rotation.