In most mock drafts, Daniel Gafford is a prospect falling somewhere in the 15-30 range. But mocks rarely project how the draft will pan out come June 20th, and I see Gafford as a prospect that could rise significantly.
At 6’11” with a 7’2″ wingspan, the two-year attendee of Arkansas will play center in the NBA. He posesses unbelievable bounce for a player that is nearly seven feet tall and utilizes that bounce to dominate in the post on both sides of the ball.
As a freshman, Gafford was more of a raw athlete, using his sheer size and athleticism to crash the boards and get easy buckets, but he didn’t bring much skill to the floor. While he still isn’t going to knock down threes or take defenders off the dribble, he did show a lot of progression from year one to two as a scorer in the low post. Gafford can put the ball on the floor in traffic, gather himself and finish around multiple bodies. His touch around the rim and on his shot must develop, however, for him to turn into a reliable scorer at the next level.
He reminds me a lot of a slightly bigger version of John Collins when he was at Wake Forrest – an efficient player that loves to use his physicality to gain leverage against opponents. They also both have that unique ability to touch the rim with their heads. If you thought watching lobs from Trae Young to John Collins was a work of art, a Young to Gafford tandem on the break would equate to the Sistine Chapel of alley-oops.
If Gafford wants to make the transition to Atlanta, though, his jump shot will have to improve. He didn’t shoot any three-pointers in college and only shot 56.2% on his free throw attempts at Arkansas. But if that seems problematic, remember, John Collins didn’t make any threes in college either. Although, Collins’ jump shot was a much smoother one coming out than Gafford’s. Scouts will have to take a more in-depth look to see if that is fixable. If they find that it is, I don’t know why Gafford should not be selected in the lottery.
Defensively, he is not a finished product but has the potential to be a plus defender. He averaged over two blocks a game in each season at Arkansas, and I believe he is only tipping the iceberg on that side of the ball. His long frame, paired with his athleticism and strength, will allow him to hang with the most physical ballers in the paint.
Gafford could be an effective center in the NBA, but more in a Clint Capela/Rudy Gobert role. I’m not positive he will ever be able to develop a consistent jumper, which will severely limit his upside in the today’s game, and may deter the Hawks from selecting him. But Atlanta doesn’t necessarily need more shooting. They have to get better defensively, and Gafford is still an undeveloped piece with high upside that could fit nicely at the center spot for the Hawks.