Daniel Gafford

Wizards Notes: Beal, Wright, Hachimura, Gafford

The Wizards are at a critical point in their season and they may have to navigate it without Bradley Beal, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Sunday’s loss to the Lakers was Washington’s sixth in its last seven games, and a challenging schedule looms for the rest of the month. There is concern about the status of Beal, who suffered a strained hamstring while diving for a ball midway through the first quarter and didn’t return to the game. He will undergo testing today to determine the extent of the injury.

“First of all, hopefully, he doesn’t have to miss that many games,” Corey Kispert said. “I’m praying for Brad, absolutely. He’s the heart and soul of our team. We need him on the floor. But whether it’s a good thing or not, we’ve experienced playing without Brad last year. A lot of guys on this team did that. We know exactly what to do, just kind of a mindset change and a little bit of a style change. But we need (Beal) on the floor. We want him out there.”

Beal, a three-time All-Star, is scoring more efficiently this season, shooting a career-best 52.2% from the field and 35.2% from three-point range. Robbins notes that the Wizards were able to go 4-2 when Beal was in the health and safety protocols earlier this season, with Kyle Kuzma taking on more of a facilitating role.

There’s more from Washington:

  • Free agent addition Delon Wright, who has been sidelined since suffering a Grade 2 hamstring strain in the fourth game of the season, may be able to return this week, Robbins adds. Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. told reporters that Rui Hachimura is still “day to day” after missing eight games with a bone bruise in his right ankle.
  • Two-way guard Devon Dotson and lottery pick Johnny Davis both entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols while in the G League, Robbins tweets.
  • Daniel Gafford relied on support from his wife and his friends while seeing limited playing time in November, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Gafford scored a season-high 20 points Sunday after posting season-best marks with 12 rebounds and six blocks in Friday’s game. “Take a deep breath, it’s going to be okay,” Gafford said. “You might have a bad night this night, but you can come back the next night and you can prove that that wasn’t you. Just be better than the day before. In our bathroom, me and my wife, we have sticky notes of motivational things that we’ve said to each other over the times. Every morning I look at that and it helps me out a lot. I actually take the time out to look at that. So, really just finding ways to clear out my mental.”

Wizards Notes: Beal, Porzingis, Gafford, Hachimura

Appearing on the No Chill with Gilbert Arenas podcast, Wizards star Bradley Beal was asked by Arenas’ co-host Josiah Johnson about why he decided to sign a long-term contract to remain in D.C. this past summer. Beal responded by explaining that he appreciates the influence he has earned within the organization and believes in the talent on the roster.

“Not everybody gives you a voice in the organization. I have a voice here,” Beal said (hat tip to Paul Terrazzano Jr. of TalkBasket). “I never had a chance to fully play a year with (Kristaps Porzingis). That enticed me. He’s probably the best big I’ve played with. I like (Kyle Kuzma)’s ability to be able to spread his wings a little bit more, develop into the player that we think he can be. And then I think I like the young core that we were developing. Rui (Hachimura) is really good, had an awesome summer. Deni (Avdija)‘s just gonna continue to get better. And then Corey (Kispert)‘s a knockdown shooter, who is a pro’s pro.

“We still need to get better. I’m not sitting here saying, ‘We’re gonna hold up the Larry (O’Brien trophy). We’re going to beat Milwaukee (in the playoffs) tomorrow.’ No. But to have the pieces we have, we have enough to know that we can compete on a nightly basis with no BS. We know that we got a job, everybody’s able to be a star in their role, and we can go do that.”

It would have been hard for Beal to turn down the Wizards’ five-year, $251MM+ offer, which included a no-trade clause, in any scenario. But the star guard admitted that he didn’t actually have a ton of viable alternatives on the free agent market, alluding to the fact that many contending teams were in the tax, or at least well over the cap. The teams operating with cap space this summer were virtually all retooling or rebuilding clubs.

“On the flip side of it, the business side of it. There were no teams in the market, free agency-wise. I’m just being frank,” Beal said. “There was nowhere else for me to go where I can be like, ‘Oh, I can go win.’ It was teams that strategically wasn’t what I wanted. So realistically, I won’t say my hand was forced, but this was my best decision and best option on the table at the time.”

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • While you could gripe about some of his poorly timed late-game turnovers, Beal is otherwise off to a strong start in the first season of his mega-deal, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. As Hughes observes, Beal’s current streak of 11 consecutive 20-point games is already better than any run he had last season, and his shooting percentages (.520 FG%, .352 3PT%) have rebounded in a major way after a down year in 2021/22 (.451 FG%, .300 3PT%).
  • As Hughes notes in another story for NBC Sports Washington, Unseld used centers Kristaps Porzingis and Daniel Gafford together in the frontcourt on Friday for the first time all season. The move, an attempt to counter the impact that Charlotte’s duo of Mason Plumlee and Nick Richards was having on the boards and in the paint, was a success, with the Wizards outscoring the Hornets by 18 points during Porzingis’ and Gafford’s 12 minutes together. According to Hughes, the combination looks like an “in case of emergency” option for Unseld, but it could be worth trying more, given its effectiveness on Friday.
  • Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said on Friday that there’s no real timeline for Rui Hachimura‘s return from a bone bruise in his right ankle, referring to the fourth-year forward as “week-to-week,” according to Ava Wallace of The Washington Post (Twitter link). Hachimura has missed the Wizards’ last seven games.

Southeast Notes: Wizards, M. Williams, Fultz, Krejci, Korver

Josh Robbins of The Athletic takes a look at the Wizards‘ projected depth chart and rotation, predicting that former Nuggets Monte Morris and Will Barton will join Bradley Beal, Kyle Kuzma, and Kristaps Porzingis in the starting five to open the season.

Assuming Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. decides to roll with a 10-man rotation to open the season, Robbins projects Delon Wright, Deni Avdija, Rui Hachimura, and Daniel Gafford to be part of the second unit, with either Corey Kispert or Johnny Davis slotting into the second backcourt spot.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Longtime Hornets forward Marvin Williams has rejoined the franchise in a basketball operations role, tweets Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer. In his new position, Williams will assist with player programs and with player development off the court, according to Boone.
  • Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel spoke to Dr. David Lee, a local orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon, to get a sense of how long it might take Magic point guard Markelle Fultz to return from a fractured toe. Lee estimated that Fultz could potentially return to Orlando’s lineup in about four to eight weeks, which would be anywhere from mid-October to mid-November. However, the team hasn’t provided a specific recovery timeline.
  • Hawks head coach Nate McMillan liked what he saw from newly added guard Vit Krejci in the 22-year-old’s first practice with the team on Thursday. “He knows how to play,” McMillan said, per Lauren L. Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). “I think he has a high basketball IQ. We put him right out there. It was good to see him be available to play and practice with our guys today. So that was exciting.”
  • Although Kyle Korver is technically part of the Hawksfront office and not the coaching staff, he has been working with players – including Clint Capela and Jalen Johnson – on their shooting during training camp, as Williams writes in a full story for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (subscription required). “I’ve worked with him quite a few times actually,” Johnson said on Wednesday. “Kyle has helped me make a few adjustments in my shot. You know, having him around has helped a lot. He’s been helping a lot of these guys, giving them pointers and things they can work on, so it’s good.”

Eastern Notes: Harrell, Gafford, Raptors, Pistons

Sixers free agent addition Montrezl Harrell would ideally be used as a situational player rather than a primary backup center, according to Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com. In 71 games (23.1 MPG) split between the Wizards and Hornets last season, Harrell averaged 13.1 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 2.0 APG while shooting 64.5% from the floor and a career-high 71.6% from the line.

As Neubeck observes, Harrell will not only be reunited with former Rockets teammate James Harden, who reportedly played a major role in recruiting Harrell, but he’ll be playing under Doc Rivers once again as well — his former Clippers head coach.

Harrell won the Sixth Man of the Year award with the Clippers and Rivers a couple of years ago, but struggled defensively in the postseason, and Rivers stubbornly stuck with him. It remains to be seen whether Rivers will be more flexible with his lineups than he has been in the past, Neubeck notes.

The 28-year-old’s distinct strengths (energy, finishing at the rim) and weaknesses (size, defense) make it hard to rely on him in every matchup, but he should be well-positioned for a more defined role behind Joel Embiid, Neubeck writes.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Scouts are split in their opinions regarding Wizards center Daniel Gafford due to his inconsistency, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Robbins takes an in-depth look at Gafford’s strengths and weaknesses, using video clips and stats, and querying scouts to get a well-rounded take on Gafford’s game and what he might develop into in the future.
  • The Raptors didn’t make any splashy offseason moves, and may not be a top contender to come out of the East, but they’re not stuck in the middle either, argues Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Toronto is trying to develop young players while being as competitive as possible, which is a difficult balancing act at times, but the team has successfully managed it in the past, according to Koreen, who adds that the Raptors have consistently exceeded their expected win totals under president Masai Ujiri.
  • In a mailbag column for The Athletic, James Edwards III tackles a number of Pistons-related topics. Edwards thinks second-year wing Isaiah Livers is a prime breakout candidate, Isaiah Stewart‘s three-point shooting from Summer League should carry over into the 2022/23 season, and veterans Cory Joseph, Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel and Kelly Olynyk should all have more trade value as the in-season deadline nears.

Southeast Notes: Barton, Gafford, Gibson, Barnes, Heat

Wizards guard Will Barton expressed excitement about playing with his new teammates next season, including 23-year-old center Daniel Gafford, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. Barton and Monte Morris were recently traded to Washington after playing with Denver last season.

“Big Gaff, I want to get out there with him, man,” Barton said. “I’m a guy that likes to get to the rim and when I get to the rim, if I can’t score it myself, I want to put that lob up there and I know he’s a guy who can go get it. So, he’s definitely a guy I’m looking forward to playing with.”

Barton also mentioned Bradley Beal and Kyle Kuzma, who combined to score 40.3 points per game last season. Gafford will likely come off the bench behind Kristaps Porzingis in 2022/23, but it’s possible head coach Wes Unseld Jr. will test bigger lineups featuring both players at some point.

Here are some other notes from the Southeast Division:

  • New Wizards big man Taj Gibson plans to be a mentor and help the team’s younger players this year, Ava Wallace of the Washington Post writes. Gibson recently joined the club after playing with New York for the past three seasons. He holds 13 years of NBA experience, which includes several playoff runs with the Bulls earlier in his career.
  • In his latest “Ask Ira” mailbag, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel examines whether the Heat should consider trading for Harrison Barnes. Barnes averaged 16.4 points per game for the Kings last season, shooting 39% from three-point range. Aside from Miami needing a power forward, Barnes would also fit in the team’s switch-heavy defensive scheme.
  • In a separate story for the Sun Sentinel, Winderman explores whether the Heat truly need a power forward. The short answer is yes. Miami lost P.J. Tucker to Philadelphia this month and hasn’t re-signed Markieff Morris, leaving a gaping hole in the starting lineup. The team did re-sign undersized forward Caleb Martin and has a budding two-way player in Haywood Highsmith, but starting Jimmy Butler at the four would likely be difficult against bigger teams in the East such as Boston, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. Assuming Tyler Herro and Max Strus start, the team would have to commit to playing in transition and likely blitz more defensively.

Southeast Notes: Porzingis, Gafford, Hachimura, Ball, Martin

The combination of Kristaps Porzingis and Daniel Gafford at center could produce big results for the Wizards, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. They combined for 33 points against the Clippers on Wednesday. They also give the team a consistent shot-blocker presence on defense.

“I think it’s a different feel,” Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “K.P.’s able to stretch the defense and Gaff obviously puts a lot of pressure on the rim as a roller. Both have good length and size up front. But just the ability to mix and match, kind of give offenses and our offense a different feel, the defense a different look.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Rui Hachimura has shown expanded range offensively, Ava Wallace of the Washington Post writes. Known for his midrange game, Hachimura has made half of his 3-point attempts this season. “For me, it’s more confidence,” the Wizards forward said. “I’m more confident shooting threes.” Hachimura, who has appeared in 24 games after sitting out for personal reasons, is extension-eligible this summer and the improved perimeter shooting should pump up his value.
  • LaMelo Ball‘s slump will doom the Hornets if he doesn’t snap out of it soon, Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer opines. Ball’s inconsistent play has been a big reason why Charlotte has lost 13 of its last 17. He had six first-half turnovers against Boston on Wednesday. “I’m not playing my game,” he said. “Trying to do other stuff. Pretty much letting people get in my head.”
  • Heat reserve Caleb Martin injured his left knee on Wednesday but it doesn’t appear to be serious. The Heat decided an MRI was not required on his hyperextended knee, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets. He’s questionable to play on Friday, Winderman adds in another tweet.

Southeast Notes: Heat Buyout Approach, Gafford, Fultz, Porzingis

The Heat have been active in the buyout market in past years and they could fill their open roster spot will a veteran in the coming weeks, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. Miami could look to add a power forward if Markieff Morris remains out or wait to see if another rotation player gets injured. Winderman doesn’t expect the Heat to fill the spot with a long-term prospect as they did with Kendrick Nunn three years ago or Omer Yurtseven last season, since they’re focused on winning a championship this season.

We have more info on the Southeast Division:

  • Daniel Gafford has long-term security after signing an extension that runs through the 2025/26 season. However, the Wizards big man had to be patient to regain a starting role, Josh Robbins of The Athletic writes. Following a bout with COVID, he replaced Thomas Bryant in the starting five on Friday and produced 17 points and six rebounds  in 29 minutes. “There was a lot of frustration, but at the end of the day, I wanted to be a good teammate. I didn’t want to wear my feelings on my sleeves,” Gafford said. “There was times where I did, but at the end of the day, I can’t bring that negative energy around the team. So I apologized to the team for that, the times that I did do it.”
  • Markelle Fultz made his season debut tonight. It’s the end of a long hard road of rehab for the Magic guard, who tore his ACL last season. “It’s been a long time coming,” Fultz told Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel. “It’s been a long time of just all the hard work I put in. All those tough days, I did it for this moment right here, just to be able to go out there and be able to compete. Just happy. Not many words I can express it.”
  • Though Kristaps Porzingis doesn’t appear to be close to making his Wizards debut, coach Wes Unseld Jr. said they’re not thinking about shutting him down for the season, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington reports. “You hope that at some point you don’t see the effects they are concerned with and we can kind of expedite the return. But until that point, we’re going to treat it day-to-day and hope that he responds well,” Unseld said. Porzingis has already been ruled out of Tuesday’s game against Detroit due to knee soreness.

Wizards Notes: Player Development, Hachimura, Porzingis

Whether the Wizards push hard for a play-in spot down the stretch or resign themselves to a lottery berth and vie for draft positioning, developing their young players will be a top priority the rest of the way, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

As Hughes outlines, if youngsters like Deni Avdija, Rui Hachimura, Corey Kispert, and Daniel Gafford thrive in the second half of the season, that will give the Wizards more options in the offseason — they could decide to build around those players or could try to trade one or more of them for a more established player.

Avdija, who is averaging 7.5 PPG on the season, has looked good as of late, scoring double-digit points in all three games since the trade deadline and grabbing a career-high 15 rebounds in Monday’s win over Detroit. However, Hachimura’s developmental process may have hit another temporary snag during Monday’s victory.

As Hughes writes in a separate NBC Sports Washington story, Hachimura left the game in the first half due to a right ankle sprain. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said after the game that he’s hopeful the sprain isn’t too severe, but it still might make sense for Washington to hold out the third-year forward until at least after the All-Star break.

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • Unseld said on Monday that there’s hope Kristaps Porzingis will be able to make his Wizards debut before the All-Star break (Twitter link via Hughes). Washington plays in Indiana on Wednesday and Brooklyn on Thursday, so we’ll see if Porzingis – who is day-to-day with a right knee bone bruise – is available for either of those games.
  • Although general manager Tommy Sheppard insisted a few weeks before the trade deadline that the team felt no need to move Spencer Dinwiddie, it was obvious something was “dramatically off-kilter,” writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Dinwiddie, who struggled to produce alongside Bradley Beal, never seemed comfortable with his role on the team, Robbins adds, noting that the point guard was “oddly passive” and probably didn’t have the ball in his hands enough.
  • Within that same story at The Athletic, Tim Cato considers what Porzingis can bring to the Wizards, suggesting the big man has reemerged as a strong defender when healthy this season and is no longer an obvious target for switches. However, Porzingis hasn’t been a reliable outside shooter in 2021/22, and his frequent injury-related absences resulted in some awkward readjustment periods when he’d return to the lineup after missing several games, says Cato.

No NBA Players Currently In Health And Safety Protocols

Wizards center Daniel Gafford won’t be available for Monday’s game against Detroit, but he’s listed as out due to return to competition reconditioning, meaning he has exited the NBA’s health and safety protocols, tweets Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

That news is notable because Gafford had been the lone player remaining in the league’s COVID-19 protocols after Pelicans big man Willy Hernangomez was cleared last week. Now that Gafford has been cleared too, none of the 30 teams have a single player in the protocols.

It’s a stark contrast to where the league was at just six weeks ago. At the end of December and the start of January, there were well over 100 players in the health and safety protocols. Most teams needed to sign multiple replacements to 10-day contracts to withstand COVID-19 outbreaks, and even then, several games had to be postponed.

Of course, just because there are no players in the protocols right now doesn’t mean there won’t be more players affected going forward. It’s safe to assume individuals will continue to enter the protocols here and there, and there’s no guarantee there won’t be more team-wide outbreaks before the end of the season. But we’re hopeful that the worst of those outbreaks are behind us for the 2021/22 campaign.

We set up a tracker in December to keep tabs on which players were entering and exiting the health and safety protocols, and we’ve updated it daily since then. However, we’re putting that tracker on ice for now and will only resume updating it if the number of players affected starts climbing rapidly again at some point in the coming days, weeks, or months.

Wizards Notes: Kuzma, Beal, Gafford, Trade Deadline

After Miami thumped the Wizards 121-100 on Monday, forward Kyle Kuzma questioned the team’s mental fortitude, Josh Robbins of The Athletic tweets. The Wizards have lost eight of their last nine with the trade deadline approaching.

“It’s really tough when you get punched in the face and you don’t stand up,” Kuzma said. “I think that kind of just sums up what’s kind of been going on. As soon as we hit a little bit of adversity, it’s quite a challenge to get out of that. … In order to be a winning team, you have to be a lot mentally stronger than that. It’s something that we’ve lacked.”

We have more on the Wizards:

  • Bradley Beal and his agent, Mark Bartelstein, met with Wizards management on Monday, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington reports. The Wizards are getting closer to the realization that Beal could opt out this summer and become an unrestricted free agent, according to Hughes. That might motivate them to make a deal this week. Beal has missed the last four games with a wrist injury.
  • Daniel Gafford entered the league’s health and safety protocols on Sunday. Coach Wes Unseld Jr. provided more details on Monday, saying that Gafford is exhibiting symptoms and tested positive twice on Sunday, Hughes tweets.
  • With plenty of rumors surrounding the team, Robbins runs through a variety of trade scenarios, examining a hypothetical Beal trade with the Sixers and considering what the Wizards would have to give up for Domantas Sabonis.
  • In case you missed it, we looked at the team’s trade deadline goals and top trade candidates in our Southeast Division trade deadline preview.