The Charlotte Hornets had a revolving door at the five spot last season. Cody Zeller was good when he played, but he missed over 30 games for the second consecutive season. Willy Hernangomez, Bismack Biyombo, and Frank Kaminsky all were given the chance to fill in. Kaminsky played decently down the stretch, but he’s a restricted free agent and the team is strapped for cap space. Hernangomez and Biyombo were arguably among the worst rotation centers in the league.
The Hornets could target Daniel Gafford in the second round to replicate the energy of Biyombo while being closer to a replacement level player on offense.
Height: 6’9.25” without shoes, 6’10.5” in shoes
Standing reach: 9’2”
Weight: 238 pounds
Vertical: 32.5” standing, 36.5” max
Strengths: Physical profile, athleticism, motor
Gafford has a good profile for a modern center. He’s 6’10.5” in shoes with an impressive wingspan and standing reach. Combined with his above average athleticism, he has the potential to be a rim-running vertical spacer on the offensive end of the floor. He’s a tremendous target for lobs out of the pick-and-roll and backdoor cuts. He’s quick off his feet and can throw down powerful dunks from a standstill on dump-off passes.
Gafford has loads of defensive potential given his tools. He averaged an impressive 2.8 blocks and 1.3 steals per 40 minutes in his last season at Arkansas. He can protect the rim, and he loves to do it. He’ll come from nowhere to make impressive help side blocks. He’s also long and mobile enough to bother guards on the perimeter on switches.
Gafford complements his athleticism with a non-stop motor. He’s relentless attacking the basket with the ball in his hands and tries to dunk everything. He battles for rebounds and is quick to go for blocks from the weak side. He frequently beats opposing bigs up the floor in transition.
Question marks: Offensive skill level, feel for the game, strength
Gafford’s offense is limited to catch-and-finish dunks at this stage. He has no jump shot; he didn’t attempt a single 3-pointer in either of his collegiate seasons. He’s a career 56% free throw shooter, though he did improve that mark to 59% as a sophomore. His form is rigid and doesn’t look natural.
The post game he used in college won’t translate to the NBA. His repertoire is based more on force than finesse. He throws his shoulder into defenders and uses over-sized drop steps when forced to make a play out of the post. He uses his right hand virtually 100% of the time and is rather awkward trying to finish plays when he’s not dunking it.
Gafford’s motor works against him sometimes. Offensively he’s too hellbent on scoring once he gets the ball, and he doesn’t have a refined enough skill level to get away with it. He had over three times as many turnovers as assists as a sophomore. His increased involvement in the offense in his second collegiate season resulted in more shot attempts and more turnovers but fewer assists. Defensively, he’s a little foul prone and can get himself out of position over-pursuing blocks and steals. His defensive rating and defensive win shares are both considered weaknesses by Tankathon.
Gafford played bully ball in college, but that won’t work for him in the NBA out of the gate. He has a decent frame, but he needs to put in more work in the weight room. He managed only five reps of 185 pounds on the bench press at the combine, which isn’t good for a soon-to-be 21-year-old that’s so reliant on his interior presence.
Daniel Gafford is somewhat similar to Bismack Biyombo with better hands and quicker leaping ability. Bismack Biyombo is a prime candidate to be traded or waived as the team tries to clear cap space, and Gafford could provide an easy, cost-effective contingency for Biyombo’s departure. His most likely role as an NBA player will be to provide energy and defense off the bench, which is something the Hornets badly need.