I reviewed film from Saturday’s matchup of Arkansas vs Ole Miss, where Arkansas pulled off the home upset, winning 74-73. You can find the full box score here. Dan Gafford finished the game with 17 points and 2 rebounds, as well as 2 blocks and just 1 turnover on 7-9 shooting, along with 3-8 from the free throw line.
Gafford played best on offense due to him playing within himself and only taking one forced shot (not shown). Gafford showed that his offensive role should mostly rely on natural inside touches, in particular coming off the pick & roll. Gafford is a great athlete and poses a threat as an aerial target. He’s quick off his feet, rolls to the basket smoothly, and is able to dunk through contact. Below is a bonus example from an early season game against Florida International, emphasizing said dunking ability:
A major improvement for him is his jump shot looking smooth in his sole jump shot attempt of the game. While his free throws are inconsistent and still a work in progress, the signs to be a potentially respectable mid range shooter are present. Gafford is still raw, so seeing this coming along as a sophomore is a welcome sight.
Gafford is average on the perimeter defensively in terms of moving his feet and maintaining drives, but he closes out strong. With his large frame and explosive leaping ability, his closeouts are strong when committed. Motor is an obstacle for him and for whichever NBA team drafts him, as it sometimes holds him back in collegiate games. However, he was locked in vs Ole Miss and didn’t appear to take any plays off. In fact, his closeouts were consistently strong, and the thunderous block displayed in the video may have been his best block of the year.
I project Gafford to be a positive defender despite his mediocre perimeter skills. Being drafted by the right team is crucial for him reaching his full potential.
Arkansas is likely to miss the NCAA Tournament, but could be an NIT candidate, which should have NBA talent in the tournament- should the top players choose to play. Gafford could benefit from one last consistent boost to end the year, as many other draft sites project him to go in the bottom half of the first round. With his physical tools and upside, I project him to be chosen towards the end of the lottery or just outside of the lottery.