Daniel Gafford has been so exceptionally good for the Wizards in a backup role, questions have naturally come up about whether he should be playing more. Fans wonder aloud on social media and head coach Scott Brooks has even been asked numerous times about it.
Brooks has mostly explained it in two ways. One is that he likes his three-center rotation, that it's more about what Alex Len and Robin Lopez bring to the table, especially in certain matchups, than something Gafford is doing wrong. The other explanation would be Gafford's tendency to get into foul trouble. Though he has cut his fouls per-36 minutes down to 3.9 since joining the Wizards, his career average is 5.0. The more he plays, the more fouls he gets.
Brooks, though, shared more details on why Gafford doesn't start and/or play 30-plus minutes a night after Monday's practice. Here is his full answer on Gafford:
"I like his minutes on the floor. There’s always other things to consider; foul situations that we have to be aware of, foul trouble. The way we play, and he’s as athletic and in as great condition as any big in the league, but with the pace that we play, he’s still carrying around – I don’t know what exactly he weighs, 260 [pounds] – that’s a lot of weight to play 10, 12 minutes at a time. We try to break it up as much as we can in the game flow. His minutes on the floor have been really good. They’re even gaining, his minutes are gaining good experience as well. I think the more minutes he gets, the more things he will be able to see instinctually. Right now, sometimes he’s a little hesitant. We just saw a bunch of clips with [Joel] Embiid and with [Dwight] Howard that I think he can do a better job with. One thing I love about Gaff is he understands and he wants to get better. He’s very coachable, he listens to our veterans, he listens to our coaches. He’s a really, really talented young player that’s going to continue to grow into a really good player."
Gafford is listed on Basketball Reference and the team's website at 234 pounds. Brooks was likely just guessing on his weight, since he probably doesn't have the measurables of all his players memorized.
Still, it's an interesting point to consider. And what Brooks didn't mention, but that is obvious in watching Gafford play, is how much energy he expends during his shifts on the floor. Gafford is so good in part because he hustles like a mad man from baseline to baseline. He's super athletic and he plays hard, which is generally a good combination.
So, essentially the Wizards could view Gafford's relatively limited playing time as a way to keep him fresh and allow him to go 100 miles per hour whenever he's on the floor. That could explain the discrepancy between a guy's weight being a factor, while Brooks also mentioning he's in fantastic shape.
Gafford, to be fair, does play more than Len, the starting center. Gafford averages 17.7 minutes per game compared to 15.8 for Len. Robin Lopez gets the biggest share of minutes at center, averaging 19.1 per game on the season. Some of that, however, is skewed by Lopez averaging more minutes earlier in the season before Gafford was acquired.
Basically, the Wizards like to use all three of their centers equally. Perhaps that could change in their first round series against the Sixers, as now they have more time off between games and, as Game 1 indicated, the rotation is being pared down for the postseason.