76ers

2019 NBA draft profile: Arkansas C Daniel Gafford

2019 NBA draft profile: Arkansas C Daniel Gafford

Position: Center

Height: 6-10½

Weight: 237

School: Arkansas

There was a chance Daniel Gafford could’ve been a first-round pick had he left Arkansas after his freshman season. Instead, Gafford came back for another season to try to refine his skills and improve his outside shot.

He increased his averages across the board and though his free-throw shooting was still poor, it did improve with even more attempts. He followed up making the SEC All-Freshman Team by earning spots on the conference’s First Team and All-Defensive Team.

He averaged 16.9. points, 8.7 rebounds and two blocks a game in 2018-19. His per 40 minute numbers stood out over his two collegiate seasons: 22.4 points, 11.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks. He shot well over 60 percent as a Razorback.

Strengths

The two best words to describe Gafford are active and bouncy. He’s as athletic as they come and his motor is incredible. He’s able to get off the floor in a hurry and has a freakish second bounce which comes in handy for blocking shots and hitting the offensive glass.

This sequence against Vanderbilt was super fun:

He should be able to fill a role immediately at the pro level as a rim-running center. His movements are fluid on both ends of the floor. He seems to have decent instincts and possesses strong hands to finish dunks and secure rebounds. You can see a little Nerlens Noel to his game, though he comes into the league more solidly built.

More of intangibles, but he does play with energy and fire. He seems like the kind of player that Philadelphia would take to.

Weaknesses

There are a ton of tools and solid basketball instincts, but, like Noel, there’s also a lot of rawness — especially offensively. He has a decent spin move and understands positioning, but most of his scoring comes off him just being stronger and more athletic than his defender.

Part of the reason he went back to school was to improve his jumper. The free throw shooting progressed, but it only went up from 53 to 59 percent. He was more willing to take mid-range shots, but his form is still rough. He does have decent touch. Couple that with his improved free throw percentage and there may be hope there.

Defensively, discipline could be a concern, though he went from 3.3 to 2.8 fouls a game. He looks like he has decent enough feet to become a strong defender, but he over challenged at the rim and reached unnecessarily on the perimeter. He’s strong at 233 pounds, but he’ll likely need to put on a little more weight to deal with NBA fives.

Gafford decided to skip the NIT and there have been questions about his maturity.

Fit

The Sixers need a backup center and Gafford could fill that role. He’ll be 21 on Oct. 1, so he won’t be the youngest rookie in the league. If he’s coachable at the next level he could harness his athleticism into becoming a more disciplined defender. 

The biggest issue the Sixers ran into during the playoffs was finding a backup five that moved his feet. When Joel Embiid was off the floor in the postseason, the team’s defense struggled mightily. Gafford could help mitigate that with his athletic traits and activity level. He’s projected as a fringe first-rounder so No. 24 is a possibility. He may also be available in a trade-back scenario or he could linger into the second round.

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2 NBA players tested positive for COVID-19 in Orlando; Richaun Holmes breaches 'bubble'

2 NBA players tested positive for COVID-19 in Orlando; Richaun Holmes breaches 'bubble'

Former Sixer Richaun Holmes breached the NBA’s health and safety regulations by picking up a food delivery, he said Monday afternoon. 

Holmes will now have to quarantine for eight additional days. 

Earlier Monday, ESPN reported that the Rockets’ Bruno Caboclo unintentionally broke quarantine. 

Shortly after Holmes released his statement, the NBA and NBPA announced that two players of the 322 tested in Orlando since July 7 were positive for the coronavirus. Those players never cleared quarantine, according to the joint statement. 

All-Star Rockets guard Russell Westbrook announced Monday that he tested positive for COVID-19 before Houston’s departure and is quarantined. New Sixer Ryan Broekhoff said Sunday he didn’t travel with the Sixers to Orlando so that he could focus on his family after his wife tested positive.

Joel Embiid was skeptical last week that all players would follow the league’s protocols.

“Some guys like to go out and some guys like to do stuff, (there are) some guys that like adventure,” he said. “So that’s the way I’m thinking. I know myself. I know I’m not going to put everybody else at risk, but the question is, is everybody else going to do the same? And just being around this business, I surely don’t think so.”

A second-round pick of the Sixers in 2015, Holmes played the first three seasons of his career in Philadelphia as an athletic, high-energy backup big man. He’s had the best season of his career with the Kings, posting 12.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game this year. 

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Why now is the right time for Ben Simmons to change positions

Why now is the right time for Ben Simmons to change positions

When the Sixers drafted Ben Simmons first overall in 2016, Brett Brown told the assembled media that night that asking the Australian to play point guard with no previous experience was “borderline cruel.”

Brown didn’t rule it out but wasn’t 100 percent sure where Simmons would play. We ultimately know what happened. Simmons has been a two-time All-Star as a point guard but has limitations in the half court.

As the team continues its training camp at Disney World, the ultimate solution for Brown and the Sixers may be to take the ball out of Simmons’ hands.

The last few days I played him exclusively as a four man,” Brown said in a video conference with reporters Monday. “He’s so dynamic. … Let’s just talk about running: There’s nobody faster in the NBA. And so to always have Ben have to have the ball and dribble it up against five guys … I think dilutes some of his potent weapons.

The decision for Brown is multi-faceted. The “clunky” fit of Al Horford and the emergence of second-year guard Shake Milton — who Joel Embiid revealed has been running the point with the starters — were factors. 

But the main purpose is to make the most out of Simmons’ skill set. His unwillingness to shoot is well documented, but there is little Simmons can’t do outside of that. We’ve seen Brown deploy Simmons as a screen and roller plenty this season. Though the results have been mixed from an analytics standpoint, Simmons’ physical traits lend themselves to that role.

Brown at one point compared Simmons to Blake Griffin, one of the more dangerous rollers in the league in his prime. It’s not hard to imagine Simmons playing that role in the half court while still being elite in transition with the ball in his hands.

So, why did it take Brown so long into Simmons’ career to make the change? The answer is simple: Necessity. Brown made Simmons the Sixers’ point guard initially because he was best suited for the role at the time.

With a player like Milton emerging and Simmons’ limitations continuing to be exposed, now is the right time to make this move.

We were young and really not that good so it was my decision, ‘You take the ball. We’re going to make you the point guard,’” Brown said. “It’s not like he came in and there was an established point guard that you had to bump out. And so there are zero regrets on doing that.

“But it’s important to understand the segue into where he was and where he is. And so now you fast forward it and it’s not like you’re looking over your shoulder and there’s Damian Lillard or Chris Paul. That isn’t true, that’s not where I’m going, but you realize the value that he has in many other areas.

The other way Simmons can be utilized in the half court is by putting him in a “snug” pick-and-roll in the post with Joel Embiid. While the action hasn’t always produced great results, Brown has continued to use it. The best example Brown has pointed to is the home win against the Clippers before the All-Star break.

It’s an action that both players have needed time to get a feel for, but if they can execute it, the duo’s combination of size and skill could be difficult to defend.

I feel like this role is actually going to be even better than being the starting point guard,” Embiid said, “because he’s so great defensively, and offensively, when he has a chance, he’s probably one of the fastest guys in the league, so just getting the rebound and pushing it in transition and find the shooters. And then in half-court play, we can use him in a lot of ways. He can roll or he and me, we can play out of that pick-and-roll out of the post. So I think we’re going to be great.

While it might be the end of Simmons as a point guard, you won’t hear the soon-to-be 24-year-old sulk about it. Simmons said last week that he’s comfortable in any role and that he “love(s)” playing in the pick-and-roll.

After all, this move isn’t just right for the Sixers and their chances to go on a deep playoff run. It’s also about the evolution of Simmons and the best way to use his dynamic skill set going forward.

Watching him fly up the floor, watching Joel and him play off each other has been a really good look. I think they’ve been fantastic together,” Brown said. “And most importantly, how has he responded to [not being the point guard]? Like a star. Just a mature, whatever it’s going to take to get this team to be the best that it can be with the pieces that we have that can be designed into a smooth thing, something that’s not clunky. That is one of the pieces he has to offer, and I think he’s been great at accepting that and really killing it in practice in the environment that I just said.

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