Daniel Gafford has been in and out of the lineup this season as coach Wes Unseld, Jr. has tried to find a successful formula for the Wizards.
Gafford found himself on the outside looking for a stretch in November as Unseld, Jr. looked for a spark and more aggression. For a while he found this missing piece at the Taj Gibson.
“I just needed a change of energy,” Unseld Jr. said of Gibson. “He’s a pretty solid playmaker from the elbows inside the paint and he’s going to bounce off the screens. Defensively, he will be a little more aggressive. I think his style of play, whether it’s fouls or not, he’s an aggressive defender. It’s wreaking havoc there.
Gafford is having a much better December now that he’s back in the rotation more often, but is also playing with increased efficiency. He also finds some magic in Unseld Jr’s new big two line-up alongside successful Kristaps Porzingis.
When the Wizards faced Charlotte on Friday, Gafford recorded season highs in rebounds (12) and blocks (6).
In the Wizards’ loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Gafford scored a season-high 19 points, grabbed seven rebounds, blocked two shots and delivered an assist. It was the first time he scored in double figures in consecutive games this season.
Although the Wizards fell short, Gafford lined up alongside some of the game’s best with Anthony Davis, Lebron James and Russell Westbrook in stark contrast. He also saw Davis score 55 points.
For Gafford, competing against the best drives him to improve and strive for greatness.
“I love it. Going against guys I’ve seen on TV years and years ago dominating the league. I’ve been in the position where I’ve said I want to do the same than them,” Gafford said. “To be able to compete against guys like that is inspiring. It pushes me to be better day after day and to come and play basketball.
He had another positive performance with ten points off the bench Wednesday night against the Chicago Bulls.
Gafford is still very young in his career. As he continues to develop and grow, along with his unique skills as a rim protector, he has a bright future ahead of him.