Bulls’ Former Draft Pick Fueling Rival Team’s Playoff Push


Daniel Gafford blocks Zion Williamson’s shot during an April 16 game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

With their latest loss, the Chicago Bulls’ play-in tournament hopes are all but dead. But if make it, former second-round pick Daniel Gafford will be waiting for them.

Chicago is 29-40, and three games back of the 10th-seed Washington Wizards with three games remaining.

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Steal of the Trade Deadline?

While many outlets opted to focus on the faces joining the Chicago Bulls at the trade deadline, few focused on the players that were sent packing.

Among them, center Daniel Gafford is shining with the Washington Wizards.

The Bulls’ former second-round pick was a part of the three-team deal that also featured the Boston Celtics.

In return, Chicago landed starting forward Daniel Theis, and bench contributors Javonte Green and Troy Brown Jr.

Since arriving in DC, Gafford is averaging 9.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game. Even with two-time All-Star Nikola Vucevic manning the center position, that sounds like a player that could’ve helped the Bulls.

Gafford’s play with the Wizards has earned national recognition, with NBA Twitter’s Rob Perez dubbing him “the steal of the trade deadline” late last month:

Since acquiring the 22-year old back in March, Washington has been one of the best teams in the NBA, going 15-5.

In the 746 possessions that Gafford has played for the Wizards, the team is (+9) per Cleaning the Glass. And they’re scoring 120.9 points per 100 possessions, good for the 95th percentile.

Elsewhere, the Chicago Bulls have gone just 10-14 and drifted out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Whether Daniel Gafford’s presence could have changed their fate remains unclear.

But the winner of the trade seems pretty apparent.

Gafford Talks Trade to Wizards

In a recent interview with BasketballNews.com, Daniel Gafford reflected on his trade to the Washington Wizards and his tenure with the Chicago Bulls.

The 22-year old acknowledged his up-and-down season and a half in the Windy City, and admitted to being somewhat excited at the new opportunity that was playing in DC:

Once I landed in Washington, it was boots to the ground. I had to come in and I had to let guys know, ‘I’m ready for whatever you guys give me, whatever time you give me on the floor, whatever position you’d be able to put me [in]. Throw me in the fire and I’m gonna cool it off.’ So my mentality was just [to] get ready for work. Come out and do the thing that I’ve always been doing and just be better at it.

His connection with Russell Westbrook has been a huge development for the Wizards. In 20 games, the point guard has assisted Gafford a total of 38 times, good for 1.9 assists per game.

Westbrook, averaging 11.6 assists per game, has taken advantage of the self-acknowledging lob threat:

‘Throw it to the moon and I’m gonna bring it back down.’ That was just my thing. And it had kind of stuck because I was just getting every lob that was thrown. Other than that, just coming out and just being great in those areas.

Gafford cited both the point guard, and Bradley Beal’s leadership as one of Washington’s strengths as a team:

[They] know how to get theirs and get their teammates involved as well. That’s the main thing. I like that a lot about Russ and Brad. Russ has that leadership role. Brad has that leadership role. And playing with two guys like that, it’s just a blessing in disguise because it’s been able to show me the things that I can do when I take the opportunity.

He compared it to sharing the locker room with Bulls’ guard Zach LaVine:

Coming from an All-Star-caliber player with Zach LaVine — he was a great player. He did everything that he had to do to really show me what it’s like in his league to be a facilitator and scorer and everything like that. Being with two guys kind of like Zach LaVine, it’s crazy. It changes your mindset for sure… Now you go from having one guy on your ass to having two guys getting on your ass.

Looking ahead, Gafford sees a fit with the Wizards, and is hopeful on a future with the team:

If this were to happen to where I get a contract or they take on my contract here, I wouldn’t hate it at all. Me just being in Washington and all the love that I’ve gotten here, and how I’ve been playing here — I mean, I would for sure love to stay.

It didn’t work out in Chicago for Daniel Gafford. But so far, he’s looked right at home in Washington.

Updated Bulls Playoff Odds

After their latest loss to the Brooklyn Nets, the Chicago Bulls drop to 28-40.

That’s good for the 11th seed in the Eastern Conference, and three games back of the 10th seed Washington Wizards.

Five Thirty Eight has the Bulls’ playoff chances at less than one percent.

Elsewhere, Tankathon.com has Chicago’s remaining schedule as the ninth most difficult in the entire NBA.

Action Network gives them just a 2.2 percent chance to land in the 10th seed, and punch their ticket to playoffs, and an 88 percent chance to finish 11th.

So the odds are stacked against the Chicago Bulls, who are 5-5 in their last 10.

Three games to go.

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