Chicago Bulls: What adding physical big Daniel Gafford at No. 38 means

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

Adding to their strong core of bigs, the Chicago Bulls used their 38th pick in the NBA Draft to select a physical, rim-running center in Daniel Gafford.

If nothing else, the Chicago Bulls used tonight’s draft to get a bigger and stronger team for 2019. One of the most physical players in this year’s draft class, the Bulls selected the rim-running center Daniel Gafford out of Arkansas. The 20-year-old stands 6-foot-11 and 238 pounds, with long arms and daunting athleticism.

Playing two seasons of Razorbacks basketball under Mike Anderson, Gafford played a strong enough sophomore season to put his name in the NBA Draft. Averaging 16.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2 blocks last season, the rim-rocking inside man heard his name called in the second round, going at 38 to Chicago.

Fans of Clint Capela are going to love Gafford, whose physical tools and tenacious energy give him value on both ends. Catching lobs and using his strength to dominate defenders for powerful dunks, he was destructive inside at Arkansas.

If part of the Bulls plan for this draft was to get great complimentary players, White and Gafford fit that model. White and Gafford could be dangerous in pick and roll sets, the 6-foot-5 White can take on a bigger defender and feed lobs to the springy Gafford at the rim.

While the team found themselves linked to rim-running big Jaxson Hayes as an early first-round target, they found an interesting backup for Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. with their #38 selection in the NBA Draft. Gafford checks a lot of the same boxes as the Bulls’ early target but comes with a lower floor. The team left another notable big, Bol Bol, on the board, opting for a player with a stronger medical report.

Gafford probably won’t be an instant impact kind of player. Due to inefficiencies in his game, like his tendency to be a little careless with fouls and heavy feet, he’ll mostly be kept inside 18 feet protect and score around the rime. Gafford also didn’t attempt a three-point shot in college and his quirky shot make him a non-threat from anywhere deeper than the free-throw line.

As a fan of the Bulls and the game as a whole, I would love to see a lineup of Gafford, Carter, and Markkanen share the floor. While the lineup would require the Bulls to play the game at a slower pace, however, the results could be deadly.

Bigger defenders will be forced inside to mind Carter and Gafford, who are both vicious around the rim. If Markkanen is behind the three-point arc, he’s almost certain to command a smaller defender, giving a lot of leverage from deep. They would get exposed in transition, but the trio could also throttle defenses in short stretches.

Importantly, the pick also gives the Bulls a little more depth at the power forward and center positions. Last season, the Bulls as a team were rattled by injuries, including Markkanen missing 30 and Carter missing 38 games.

Gafford didn’t miss a game in either season as at Arkansas but did partially tear his meniscus in high school. As long as Gafford stays healthy as he did in college, the Bulls have a guy who can both come off the bench and give the Bulls interior depth.

This probably does message the end of Robin Lopez’s time as a Chicago Bull. The Bulls selected a player to take the role of the high-energy role man in the draft, meaning that contracting Lopez is essentially doubling down on two players in the same role. This could, however, open the door for a veteran like Luol Deng to join Chicago as a veteran forward presence with some athleticism.

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Interestingly, the Bulls look to another Razorback in Gafford to fill the hole of Bobby Portis. Portis who was drafted 22nd overall in 2015, played under Anderson at Arkansas and also found success as a Bulls rotational big man before being exiled to the Washington Wizards.