The Chicago Bulls selected Daniel Gafford, who may have the best total vertical reach of all the prospects selected in the 2019 NBA draft.
After two seasons for the Arkansas Razorbacks, the 20-year-old big man was picked in the second round on Thursday evening. Gafford took home SEC All-Defense and also had the fifth-best effective field goal percentage in the NCAA last season. He is an excellent rim protector who is a prolific finisher near the basket as well.
Gafford caught up with HoopsHype about what he will be able to bring the Bulls next season and beyond.
Tell me about some of your goals and intentions during the pre-draft process.
Daniel Gafford: The main thing was just trying to impress to the best of my ability because this is a big opportunity. But in the end, it’s a place of business and I’m just trying to make my mark on it.
How do you think you can contribute to Chicago out of the gates? What role can you see yourself playing in the next couple of years?
DG: I just want to be in that role of a guy who can bring as much energy as he possibly can. Come in and get at least 10, 11, 12 rebounds or maybe even more. Scoring-wise, I just want to be that guy who scores whenever the ball gets to him. My main focus is just playing defense. I want to be a defensive guy as much as an offensive guy.
You were one of the most dominant players near the rim in all of college basketball. I’m curious about how important that has been to your game and your development and what makes you such a great scorer near the basket.
DG: Finishing near the basket is one of the most important things. If you can’t finish around the basket then you might have other things to do on the outside. If you get cold on the outside you’ll have to come on the inside. That’s basically my main thing, I’ve been trying to stretch out my game. Other than that, I was good at what I did because I knew how to do it. And how to get where I needed to be.
How did you feel about your growth with the season you had at Arkansas?
DG: I felt pretty good about it. My maturity level has gone up a lot. I just got a bunch of experience coming back for my second year. It helped me out a lot on and off the court.
What was the biggest difference you thought between freshman and sophomore year?
DG: The biggest difference was that I was more vocal. My first year at Arkansas, I didn’t have to say that much because of all the seniors we had. But losing all those seniors meant I had to step into the leadership role. I helped guys get out of their funk. It’s good being a leader but it’s good to have somebody lead you as well.
I’m curious to talk to you a little bit about your dunking. Obviously, you have some of the best hops in college basketball and can really get up. What do you feel is the most impressive part of your dunking and how do you feel you can take that with you to the next level?
DG: I just go with a head full of steam on my way to the basket. As long as I can finish over the top of it, that is basically my mindset when it comes to dunking.
Do you think a dunk contest is in your future like your new teammate Zach LaVine?
DG: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Who do you think your game compares to the most in the NBA?
DG: I think Clint Capela. And I also see DeAndre Jordan a lot. He loves working the pick-and-roll with guards on his team. Whenever they get him the ball, he finishes around the rack. And he’s a great rebounder, he does everything on the inside and all the dirty work. So I like that comparison a lot.
I like that a lot for you, too. When you work with point guards, ballhandlers, in a pick-and-roll, what are some things you guys kind of work on to get that chemistry?
DG: Good communication on the pick-and-roll, timing, the right angle, and the courage to throw it up there and have the big man throw it in.
How important is your shot blocking on the defensive side of the ball?
DG: Being able to protect the basket is one of my main focuses and I try to keep the opposing team from scoring as much as possible.
How do you think you fit into this draft class when it’s all said and done?
DG: I feel I’m one of the best bigs in the draft. Just going to take that and run with it. There’s nothing that’s going to be able to stop me from thinking like that. There’s a lot of work to be done and I know I can do it.
What do you think is really special and unique about the way that you play?
DG: I try my best to outrun everybody on the court. I try my best to have the best motor out there. I try to give everything to help my team. Whatever it is. If I have to rebound, I’ll rebound every game. If I have to score, I’ll score. If I have to block shots, then I’ll do that all game. I think that’s the main thing that separates me. I help the team instead of helping myself.