ESPN just released its 13th annual list of the Top 100 players in the NBA, amidst plenty of controversy and disagreements. This is to be expected as this is a rather impossible task to do while pleasing every fanbase around the league. On this year’s list, there were two members of the Washington Wizards: Kyle Kuzma who came in at 86, and Jordan Poole who was 72nd. There is plenty to discuss about whether that is an accurate placement for either player. However, what is more important for the Wizards right now is to look ahead. As a franchise that needs to be focused on the future, who will be on this list a year from now is more crucial than who currently is.
What will determine the duration and success of the Washington Wizards’ rebuild will be the development of their young players. They need to have a core of multiple players that are top 100 caliber in the league, and at least one in the top 50 to start feeling good about their future. So, let’s think about who is a good candidate to crack the NBA rank next year on this team.
Some of the traditional centers who are on this year’s edition of the list are Mitchell Robinson (no. 100), Jonas Valanciunas (no.99), and Clint Capela (no.84). One could easily see a path for Gafford to play at a higher level than some of these players in the 2023-24 season.
Robinson and Capela are similar archetypes to Gafford: rim-protecting centers who are good lob threats on the pick-and-roll. What Gafford needs to do to overtake them on the list is improve his rim protection and rebounding. And he certainly can do that considering centers take longer to figure out the defensive side of the game and Gafford is only 25 years old.
Gafford has good size and length but he needs to apply it on the court better. If he can be more physical inside the paint, there is no reason he can’t crack the 90-100 range of this list next season.