NEW ORLEANS --- The more Daniel Gafford plays, the more his play screams “10-year NBA veteran.”
Gafford plays within himself. He runs the floor hard. He sets good screens. He blocks shots and tries to dunk everything.
In short, he knows who he is.
“Really, just focus on being consistent and make sure I do better things on defense from the game before,” Gafford said in a recent interview. “And whatever I do well on defense is going to help me offensively.”
Gafford helped the Bulls offensively in Monday’s road loss to the Mavericks, scoring 13 points on six dunks in a season-high 25 minutes.
That season high for playing time may not last long. With the Bulls ruling Wendell Carter Jr. out for Wednesday's game against the Pelicans with a sprained right ankle, Gafford will likely start. Gafford played through his own rolled left ankle against the Mavericks, telling people afterward that he felt OK. He's listed as probable for Wednesday.
“He’s a tough guy,” coach Jim Boylen said.
He’s also a skilled guy, whose athleticism and shot blocking ability is making opponents notice. Gafford has multiple blocks in three straight games and six of the last seven. He averages 1.3 blocks in just 12 minutes.
“Be a real energy guy,” Gafford said of his focus. “Do my things on defense. Do my things on offense. Catch lobs. Do a lot of dunking. Do a lot of screening. Block some shots.”
Sounds easy, huh? That’s what playing within yourself will do, and the second-round pick has done that consistently since Boylen gave him his first opportunity.
“He’s been great,” Boylen said. “He gives us vertical spacing. We want the floor to be bigger to guard. We want to spread it. We want to play vertically and make defenses guard more of the floor. So when he’s playing that way, it really helps us.”
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