Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
A number of first-round picks took advantage of their opportunities to make an impression at Summer League play with notable performances during Thursday’s action.
One of them even hit a game-winner in the final seconds.
Here is a look at some of the top performances from Thursday in Las Vegas.
Kobe Bufkin Wins it for the Hawks
If the Atlanta Hawks’ 99-98 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers was any indication, Kobe Bufkin is going to be perfectly comfortable in clutch situations during his NBA career.
Atlanta trailed by one in crunch time and turned to the No. 15 overall pick of the 2023 NBA draft. Instead of settling for a contested jumper, he attacked the lane while going to his left and hit a difficult shot to put his team ahead for good with 12 seconds remaining.
He finished with 14 points and seven assists while showing the ability to score off the bounce and facilitate for others when needed.
The Michigan product also drew plenty of love from social media:
Tim Reynolds @ByTimReynolds
Two days ago after practice, Kobe Bufkin was working on pretty much this exact drive long after his teammates were done with their workout.
DONT EVER DISRESPECT KOBE BUFKIN EVER AGAIN pic.twitter.com/YYPRayPtDu
Kobe Bufkin can start at the 1 for many years. A lot of Mike Conley to his game…amazing vision and game management skills
🏀Hawks Fan TV @HawksFanTV
Kobe Bufkin with the go ahead game winner! He scored 11 points in the 4th quarter and had a couple great passes!
Hawks go 3-1 in SL
Steal of the Draft Sets Steals Record
Amen Thompson didn’t play for the Houston Rockets during Thursday’s game, but they still had another first-round pick to steal the show.
Cam Whitmore stuffed the stat sheet with 26 points, five rebounds and a stunning eight steals during Houston’s commanding 118-67 victory over the Golden State Warriors. He hit from the outside with three made three-pointers, overwhelmed Golden State defenders in the lane and stole seemingly everything in sight on the defensive side.
In fact, he tied the Summer League record for steals in a game, which was fitting since many saw him as the steal of the draft at No. 20 overall.
NBA Twitter had plenty of praise for him after the latest showing:
Cam Whitmore’s 8TH STEAL of the night 🤯
A VICIOUS slam to finish the break 💨
LIVE on ESPN pic.twitter.com/06b0vd2A8A
Cam Whitmore went OFF in the Rockets’ win over the Warriors ⭐️
8 steals (!)
Did Houston get the steal of the draft with Whitmore at #20? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/oeWm44DQil
The Villanova factor definitely comes into play regarding Cam Whitmore’s defense, I think.
Most guys who play like he does on the offensive end don’t have his defensive motor.
The Jaylen Brown comparisons for Cam Whitmore make a lot of sense to me. You can see how much talent and potential he has. He’s already incredibly physically gifted at such a young age. Houston should have the luxury of bringing him along slowly and developing him over time.
James Bouknight Shines in Brandon Miller’s Absence
Brandon Miller was the main attraction for the Charlotte Hornets at Summer League considering he was the No. 2 overall pick of the NBA draft, but he was sidelined for Thursday’s 89-83 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
That meant James Bouknight had the chance to shine.
The UConn product may be overshadowed by some of the newer faces since he was a first-round pick in 2021 and hasn’t been anything more than a role player to this point of his career, but he was dominant against the Pelicans.
He finished with 28 points and seven rebounds while shooting 11-of-21 from the field and 4-of-9 from deep.
Plenty of viewers were impressed:
NBA G League @nbagleague
James Bouknight with a HEALTHY amount of buckets tonight for the @hornets! He finished with a game-high 28 PTS to go along with 7 REB and also hit 4 threes. 🐝 #NBA2kSummerLeague pic.twitter.com/ezEEycPKMA
James Bouknight in Summer League tonight:
Will he be with the Hornets at the start of the season? pic.twitter.com/cfSeFT59ZE
James Plowright @British_Buzz
It’s only 26 points in the summer league but honestly I’m happy for James Bouknight. It’s been hard to watch at times, hopefully he can take some confidence away from todays game
Bouknight might not be in line for anything more than a secondary role again in 2023-24, but he at least flashed some of his potential when given a chance to be a primary option on Thursday.