Second round pick Daniel Gafford is an under the radar addition to this year’s Chicago Bulls roster. Selected with the 38th pick in this years draft, he is set to bolster the big man stocks in the windy city. With Cristiano Felicio seeing less minutes last year, Gafford may see rotation minutes as the backup to Wendell Carter Jr.
A two-year big out of Arkansas, Daniel Gafford stands 6-foot-11 and boasts a 7-foot-1 wing span. Weighing in prior to the draft at around 240 pounds, Gafford will look to add to his NBA ready frame so he can defend centre’s at the highest level. Still only 20 years old, he has strong fundamentals that could make him an excellent rim runner in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls.
In his time at Arkansas, Gafford was a prime lob threat on the offensive end. With a strong eye for the rim, he led the South-Eastern conference in field goal percentage.
At his best when running the floor, Gafford cuts hard and with purpose. His ability to draw fouls and finish through contact was elite at NCAA level. Though Arkansas didn’t run much pick and roll, Gafford showed he was a great screen-setter. If he gets meaningful minutes he could become a real pick and roll threat for the Bulls.
Offensive rebounding is also a massive part of his game. Be it second or third efforts he can either tip the ball back in or go straight back up for a dunk. In only 28 minutes a game this past season he ranked sixth in the South-Eastern conference in offensive rebounding.
Though he is mainly limited to the paint on offense he did flash some deeper range when he was wide open. Only a 56 percent shooter from the line, he will have to work hard on this aspect of his game if he wants to be a rotation player in the NBA.
On the defensive end Gafford is a strong rim protector. Natural leaping ability combined with his physical tools make him an excellent defensive stopper. Named SEC All-defence last season, he swatted an average of 2.1 blocks per came over his college career.
His timing on blocks is excellent, he also reduced his fouls from year one to year two even though he played more minutes. He has great verticality and isn’t be afraid to be physical with opponents. A great defensive rebounder as well, he locates out of area rebounds and looks to box out at every opportunity.
In a switch heavy NBA he will need to work on his lateral movement and foot speed. He does have good hands though, so if he can work on the above he may be able to defend out on the perimeter.
Though Summer League highlights sometimes need to be taken with a grain of salt, Gafford impressed with his energy and impressive defense. He showed commitment from the outset, being first to the floor for a loose ball, while also patrolling the paint. In averaging 2.8 blocks a game he showed he may be able to protect the rim against elite competition. Notably blocking some shots away from the paint, he also closed out well on shooters.
His excellent touch and power around the rim was also of note. Patient with his finishing he got several and-ones while waiting for a trailing defender or absorbing contact on a second shot attempt.
Gafford’s maturity in summer league bodes well for his first year in the NBA. His key skills of defence, rebounding and at rim finishing are all work-ons for the Bulls from last year. Even if he only played 12 minutes a night he could add value to the roster.
Finding value in the second round is important, as his salary of under a million for this year will be a bargain if he can be a rotation player. Gafford is a value addition to a team that has an exciting future ahead of them.