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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Sixers at Thunder: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers at Thunder: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

After falling apart in the fourth quarter Wednesday night for the second time in their past four games, the 7-4 Sixers are back in action Friday.

Here are the essentials for tonight’s game against the 4-7 Oklahoma City Thunder:

When: 8 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia 
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch: 

‘It’s a little bit of everything’

After starting 5-0, the Sixers have lost four of their last six games. The two wins, at home against Charlotte and Cleveland, weren’t easy, either.

What’s gone wrong, outside of the obvious issues with shooting and turnovers, and the minimal time the regular starters have played together?

“It's a little bit of everything,” Ben Simmons told reporters Wednesday night. “There's some things that we definitely need to touch up that I'm sure we'll go back to the film and watch. But it's a long season.”

This is a winnable game for the Sixers, but it’s another one they could lose if they play a couple of rungs below their top level. Oklahoma City is 4-3 at home and has a fascinating backcourt of 34-year-old Chris Paul and 21-year-old Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, one of the players shipped to the Thunder in the Paul George trade. Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 20.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists in his second NBA season. 

Harris’ nasty slump 

Tobias Harris is in a terrible slump, having missed his last 23 three-point attempts. He’s now shooting 20.4 percent from three-point range this season, second-worst among all players with at least 40 long range attempts. 

Brett Brown wants Harris to shoot himself out of it (see story).

The situation is starting to resemble that of a No. 3 hitter who hasn’t picked up a hit in a week and desperately wants to just find a hole in the defense and feel what it’s like to stand on base again after making solid contact. Harris will have another chance to break out of it in Oklahoma City.

Some positive recent history 

The Sixers won the last time they were in Oklahoma City, snapping a 19-game losing streak against the Thunder on Feb. 28.

Joel Embiid was out that night, but he’s expected to return tonight after sitting Wednesday (injury management/left knee soreness). Jonah Bolden, who actually started vs. the Thunder back in February and had 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting in the Sixers’ win, is on assignment with the Delaware Blue Coats.

Harris scored 32 points in that February game, his high as a Sixer. 



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How Ben Simmons blocks out distractions to get to better mental state

How Ben Simmons blocks out distractions to get to better mental state

It seems like nowadays everyone is glued to their phone screens. It can consume your time and social media can be a major distraction.

That’s what Ben Simmons came to realize over the last year. 

“I’ll be on my phone when I need to, but if I’m with my family or friends, I’m typically not on it all the time,” Simmons said. “It’s a distraction. Phones are great but they’re also sometimes on the bad side depending on what you’re look at, whether it’s Instagram, Twitter, whatever people are saying. You got to be present, be in the moment.”

There is plenty of negativity on social media — especially for a young, All-Star player like Simmons.

What he’s found is that if he doesn’t focus on what other people are saying about him, it puts him in a better mental state ahead of games.

“Staying off your phone before games, locking in, not letting others determine how you feel mentally,” Simmons said. “Lesser distractions for me, the better I play, which I love. I love going into a game not having any worries besides my teammates or winning a game.”

In an open interview, which you can watch above, Simmons discussed how his focus has changed and how he’s not letting outside voices affect his preparation or play on the court.

NBC Sports Regional Networks has launched a multi-platform campaign on mental health and men's health, HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports, for the month of November. You can find more information about the initiative here.

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