Daniel Gafford‘s arrival in Washington was overshadowed by bigger moves at the 2021 trade deadline and his emergence since joining the Wizards may be an equally underrated storyline.
The 23-year-old center, who was traded to the Wizards by the Bulls as part of a four-player deal that sent Moritz Wagner and Troy Brown Jr. outbound, showed promise in last season’s series playoff loss to the Sixers. Yet, many haven’t had a lot of exposure to the former second-round pick, including some of his new teammates.
The majority of the Wizards players have been together since Labor Day but in just a month’s time, Gafford’s potential is standing out.
Spencer Dinwiddie, who came to Washington after five seasons in Brooklyn, called Gafford a “phenomenal athlete,” explaining that Gafford may be the best dunker on the team. Kyle Kuzma, who led the Lakers in defensive win shares last season, sees a lot of potential in the 23-year-old as an elite rim protector.
“I think when you’re a pogo stick of athlete, you want to block everything because that’s your athletic ability and you’re confident in that. Not everything calls for getting blocks,” Kuzma told FortyEightMinutes and other media via zoom about what Gafford can easily change to further his potential.
“He receives criticism really well and he takes it in. The sky is the limit for him, for sure.”
New @WashWizards Kyle Kuzma compares Daniel Gafford to former teammate JaVale McGee.
Kuzma talks about how Gafford can help the Wizards' defense by "playing mind games" with players who drive into the lane.
— Chris W. Crouse 🏙 (@NBACrouse) September 30, 2021
Gafford started in the Wizards’ first preseason game—alongside Dinwiddie, Bradley Beal, Corey Kispert, and Kuzma—and had an efficient night. He scored 10 points, making 5-of-5 of his attempts from the field but more importantly, he appeared to be developing good chemistry with some of his new teammates.
Daniel Gafford did a lot of drills like this with Alex McLean during the offseasonpic.twitter.com/tJ9qVMISn4
— Neil Dalal (@NeilDalal96) October 6, 2021