Washington Wizards: Daniel Gafford shows potential in his Wizards debut

Daniel Gafford’s first game with the Washington Wizards was an encouraging glimpse of what he can bring to the frontcourt.

It didn’t take long for Daniel Gafford to show why the Washington Wizards traded for him at the deadline. On paper the acquisition made sense; the Wizards needed a young, athletic big man with some upside. The 6’10”, 22-year-old Gafford is just that. However, he wasn’t able to become a regular part of the rotation during his year and a half in Chicago. Sometimes, things that look right on paper, don’t work out on the floor.

If Gafford’s performance in the Wizards’ 106-92 victory over the Detroit Pistons was any indicator, the Wizards look like winners after the deadline. By the end of his first quarter in a Wizards uniform, Gafford was already making an impact. Before the second quarter even started, Gafford had eight points, two rebounds, and two blocks.

He wasn’t able to quite keep that pace throughout the game, but Gafford finished with 13 points, five rebounds, and three blocks in 13 minutes. He only missed one of his seven shots from the field. It was a solid stat line for his first time with his new team and an encouraging performance considering how it compared to the other centers on the floor.

Despite playing fewer minutes than both Alex Len and Robin Lopez, Gafford finished with more points than either of them while also shooting a higher percentage from the field. He had as many rebounds as both Len and Lopez combined and finished with more blocks than Lopez and Len combined. In his first game with new teammates, Gafford was more impactful in less time than either of his fellow Wizards centers. Don’t be surprised if Gafford is starting soon.

With Daniel Gafford, the Washington Wizards finally have a lob threat.

Immediately, you could see Gafford brought something to the floor that the Wizards haven’t had in a while: an explosive above-the-rim threat in the frontcourt. Gafford quickly looked comfortable with his new backcourt, catching lobs from Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook in the first quarter. That’s a great way to make a first impression, and something I’m sure we’ll see more of. While Westbrook and Beal slice through opponents and pull in defenders on their way to the rim, Gafford will always be there to finish things off.

Now, the Wizards were going up against the Pistons, the worst team in the Eastern Conference. Showing out against Mason Plumlee and Isaiah Stewart isn’t the same as dominating against Joel Embiid or Rudy Gobert. Gafford hasn’t suddenly catapulted the Wizards up the power rankings, but he’s proven he’s an improvement. With Gafford in the lineup, the Wizards are undefeated this season.

We have yet to see Chandler Hutchison, the other half of the Wizards’ trade deadline haul.