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.
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.
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.
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.
Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.