Washington Wizards: Keeping Daniel Gafford is key to being competitive

Washington Wizards Daniel Gafford. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Wizards Daniel Gafford. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

After leaving the Chicago Bulls and joining the Washington Wizards at the trade deadline in March, Daniel Gafford proved to be much better than advertised. His wiry frame, height, and willingness to race down the court and catch lobs at the rim were integral to the Wizards’ late-season push and an eventual playoff birth. Just two seasons into his career, the 22-year-old Gafford has shown that he can be a contributor without needing to dominate the ball. General manager Tommy Sheppard needs to keep him in D.C.

With the departure of Alex Len being all but certain (we hope), the Wizards will have two dynamic big men on their roster: Thomas Bryant (who’s returning from a knee injury) and Gafford. Having both may make it seem like one is disposable, but the Wizards would be smart to hold onto both.

Daniel Gafford might have a home in DC if the Washington Wizards smart enough to keep him.

In the latter half of the season, Daniel Gafford demonstrated defensive intensity and video-game-level hops. The second-year man out of Arkansas’ constant activity on the glass is a headache for offenses and defenses alike. Couple that with Thomas Bryant’s three-point shooting, and you have two dangerous big men that get it done differently. Having that one-two punch at the center position would mean opponents would have to account for a shooting big or a rim protector on every possession. The ability to keep opponents guessing will be crucial in close games.

You only need to look at the numbers to see that Daniel Gafford plays winning minutes. He averaged 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game in only 17 minutes. He also shot nearly 70 percent from the floor. Despite getting the fewest minutes of the center trio in Washington, Gafford consistently made the biggest impact. His defense and efficiency are sorely needed if Washington wants to see any improvement in the standings next season.

It would behoove Tommy Sheppard to keep Gafford. Not just because of his budding skill and upside, but his contract won’t be a roadblock for future endeavors like pursuing a free agent or two. Gafford is currently under contract for two more seasons and will make less than $2 million per season. Is he a starting center in the making? Not sure. He’s shown limitations with creating his own shot and his endurance. However, his athleticism and tenacious rebounding make up for deficiencies that can be worked on.

While there are overpaid players Washington should let go, there are those like Gafford who are cheap and make an impact. He’s an eye-popping athlete that won’t hurt a team on the defensive end and can swing momentum with vicious putbacks. Every successful team needs someone like that.

Daniel Gafford could play a part in breaking the poor habits of Washington’s front office. It’s time they held onto young talent instead of gambling on injury-prone veterans and draft picks as they have for the better part of two decades.

But first, they got to figure out what’s going on with Scott Brooks. Until they do that, nothing is getting that much better. Gafford or not.

Next. It doesn't sound like Scott Brooks is going anywhere. dark