Around this time last year, Daniel Gafford was considered to be a lock to be taken in the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft, and he surprised many when he decided to return to Arkansas for his sophomore season. It was clear at the time that he needed to improve in a number of areas, but it was also apparent that he had a high ceiling for growth. Unfortunately for Gafford, he didn’t make strides in the areas where he needed to improve the most as a sophomore, and as a result, his draft stock has dropped significantly. He also probably didn’t help himself when he decided not to play in the NIT Tournament with the rest of his teammates.
For the most part, Gafford’s sophomore season was a success, as he showed at least some improvement in nearly all areas. Playing 28.7 minutes per game, he averaged 16.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks, while shooting 66 percent from the floor. In terms of points per possession, not many were better; he averaged 1.11 PPP, which ranked at the 96th percentile. He also had a player efficiency rating (PER) of 26.7, which was the second highest in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). However, it’s where he didn’t improve that has observers concerned. For the second straight season, he took very few shots outside the paint, including no threes, and shot less than 60 percent from the free-throw line.
Gafford is an agile and athletic center, with good length and reliable hands. He excels in all of the areas that you would expect from an athletic big. He runs the floor well, blocks shots, and rebounds. He rolls and cuts to the basket extremely well, and regularly scores with emphatic dunks. He has quick footwork in the post, and can effectively turn with either shoulder, though he tends to shy away from using his left hand to finish. His post arsenal mainly consists of right-hand jump hooks, drop-steps, and drives to the basket. He also displays good body control, which helps make athletic finishes in traffic.
The main concern about Gafford is his outside shot, or lack of it. He never attempted a 3-pointer during his two years at Arkansas. He also had a career free-throw percentage of just 56.2. This past season, 94 percent of his shots came from eight feet or less; he took just 18 shots beyond eight feet, making only 3. He actually fared much better as a freshman, occasionally knocking down turnaround or face-up jumpers in the post, making six of his 12 jumpers inside of 17 feet and going 9-of-22 inside the 3-point line.
A SEC All-Defense selection this season, Gafford shows a lot of promise as a defender. He is solid in the post, though he is not the most physical defender. He moves his feet well, and is quick off the floor. He also has a 7-foot-2 wing span and a standing vertical of 32-plus inches, so shooting over him is a challenge. He is also effective as a help defender, thanks to his athleticism and length. He is quick to help and recover, and does a nice job of stopping penetration. On the perimeter, he more than held his own when switching on smaller players in isolation situations. Where he struggled the most was defending spot-up shooters; he was often late on his closeouts, but given that his main job was protecting the rim at Arkansas, this is somewhat forgivable.
In sum, Gafford is an athletic big, who excels around the basket, as a scorer, defender, and rebounder. He also runs the floor well and shows promise as a perimeter defender. His main weakness is an inability to score outside of the paint, but there are reasons for optimism. His shot mechanics do not appear to be severely flawed, and he has shown glimpses of being able to knock down jumpers inside 17 feet. As it stands, he should be selected somewhere between the end of the first round and start of the second, and if he can improve upon his weaknesses, he’ll likely be a regular part of some team’s rotation.
|Wingspan:||7-2||Vertical:||32.5 inches (standing), 36.5 (max)|
|Shot Hand:||Right||Stats:||Click here|
- Highly efficient scorer; ranked at 96th percentile for PPP and fifth in the nation for field-goal percentage (66%) this season.
- Runs the floor well and ranked at the 81st percentile for PPP in transition this season.
- Excellent scoring via rolls and cuts to the basket; ranked at the 86th and 83rd percentiles, respectively, for PPP this season.
- Gets to the free-throw line often; among those with at least 100 possessions this season, he ranked at the 97th percentile for foul percentage (23.6%).
- Solid rebounder and scorer on put-backs; ranked at 78th percentile for PPP on put-backs this season.
- Excellent shot blocker; finished in the top 3 of the SEC for block percentage for two straight seasons.
- Good post and isolation defender; ranked at the 67th and 90th percentiles, respectively, this season for PPP allowed.
- Rarely scores outside of the paint – made just 3 of 18 beyond 8 feet this season.
- Mechanics don’t look bad, but attempted zero threes and made less than 57 percent of his free throws during his two years at Arkansas.
- Can be careless with the ball; averaged 2.4 turnovers per game this season, with a very poor assist-turnover ratio of .30.
- Has a narrow frame, and appears to lack stamina, even for a center.
- Not overly physical – gets pushed around at times underneath the basket, and doesn’t consistently box out.
- Struggles vs. spot-up shooters; ranked at the 32nd percentile for PPP allowed this season.
Sources, Credits, and Acknowledgements: Stats used in our scouting reports mainly come from Synergy Sports Technology and RealGM.com, and occasionally from Hoop-Math.com and Sports-Reference.com. The photo was courtesy of Arkansas Athletics. Other outside sources are noted with links to the source.