Washington Wizards: does Daniel Gafford fly under the radar?

Daniel Gafford of the Washington wizards celebrates during game against the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images)
Daniel Gafford of the Washington wizards celebrates during game against the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images) /

When it comes to player efficiency rating (PER), Daniel Gafford was tied with Beal as the second-best player on the Washington Wizards last season, behind only Kristaps Porzingis.  The year before that, he was the 3rd best player, behind Montrezl Harrell and again Kristaps Porzingis. His first year with the Wizards, Gafford was a trade deadline acquisition, but with a small sample size, he was the best player on the team with a monster 25.4 PER.

Since Gafford got to DC he has performed as a top 3 player on the team each and every year on a PER basis. This is incredible for a player who doesn’t rack up strong counting stats.

Daniel Gafford also has a strong impact on helping the Wizards win games

When he hooked up with Westbrook under Scott Brooks’ offense it unlocked a winning formula.  The Wizards were a losing team before Gafford arrived, then they went on a 17-6 run with Gafford as the center and made the play-in.

When Porzingis arrived, it took them a long time to figure out that Gafford and Porzingis should play together in the starting lineup.  Once they figured that out, he again unlocked a winning formula.  Well . . .  sorta.

The Wizards were 21-26 with him as a starter last year.  With him out of the starting lineup they were 14-21.  And while 44.6% is indeed better than 40%, the story of last season is more complicated.

The Wiz had 28 starting lineups last season, none of the ones that played more than once had a winning record.  A few had .500 records, and all of those included Gafford as a starter. The problem could be more linked to inconsistency than any individual player, but his winning impact is still apparent.

Gafford blocks shots, is a great rebounder on offense, and is quick for his size

Daniel Gafford ranked 16th in blocks per game in the entire league and 9th in block percentage. He is one of the most slept on shot blockers in the NBA, especially considering his limited minutes.

He is also one of the best offensive rebounders in the league.  He ranked 15th in offensive rebound percentage last year.

The one interesting gap is his defensive rebounding percentage.  It doesn’t rank in the top 20 and this presents an opportunity for improvement.  His closest comp on the defensive glass was Al Horford last year, so not horrible, but not one of the best in the league like he is clearly capable of.

His speed up and down the floor is incredible, so you won’t have to worry about being run off the court with Gafford as your center. But on the flip side, he isn’t bulky enough to hold his own against bigger centers that can just knock him out of the way.  A backup big with size off the bench can help with this.

The biggest knock on Gafford is that he doesn’t have a shot.  His mid-range game in unreliable and he has zero three-point shooting ability.  Because of the lack of shooting ability, he is his heavily discounted in today’s NBA.

Gafford has consistently been one of the top three players on the Wizards and more importantly, in the right system and with the right point guard, he can have a very high impact on winning.

I have to admit, when I think of a Wizards big three, I never put Gafford on the list.  But the numbers and his impact on winning suggest that maybe I should, and just because he doesn’t have a consistent jump shot doesn’t mean he can’t impact winning.  Don’t believe me, ask Westbrook before he went to LA?  And yes, I still have my Wizard’s Westbrook jersey.

Gafford is young and capable, and definitely a center for the future if we can accept him for who he is.

That said, I have even higher hopes for Daniel Gafford when paired with Jordan Poole.  Can Gafford generate something close to a 23-24 PER with some lobs from Poole and an increased fast paced offense?  I don’t know, but I want to find out!

Next. 3 easily acquirable sharpshooters that the Wizards should target. dark