Will Gafford be a long-awaited 2nd-round success for Bulls?

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Center Daniel Gafford showed a few good signs during his rookie season. The question is can he grow into a second-round success story, something the Bulls haven't had since Chris Duhon.

    Center Daniel Gafford showed a few good signs during his rookie season. The question is can he grow into a second-round success story, something the Bulls haven't had since Chris Duhon. ASSOCIATED PRESS

 
 
Updated 5/6/2020 8:04 PM

Twelfth in a series

The Bulls haven't had many second-round success stories, at least not since Chris Duhon in 2004.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But this year's rookie second-rounder Daniel Gafford gave the Bulls some hope to end the drought.

Gafford's numbers were modest this season. He played in 43 games, with seven starts, and averaged 5.3 points. His campaign was interrupted by a dislocated thumb and sprained ankle that kept him sidelined for 12 of 13 games, starting in mid-January.

But Gafford gave the Bulls something they haven't had in awhile, a big man who could play above the rim.

His 70.1 percent field-goal percentage is evidence his point total featured plenty of tip-dunks and alley-oops.

He still has a long way to go, but considering Gafford was expected to spend most of his time in the G-League, some occasional good moments were a pretty good bonus for the Bulls. He got more playing time than expected since the other three centers -- Wendell Carter Jr., Luke Kornet and Cristiano Felicio -- all missed time due to injuries.

In retrospect, it might have helped Gafford if he'd spent more time in the G-League. It would have given him a chance to figure out professional defensive schemes and maybe grow his offensive game.

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The statistical highlight is Gafford ranked third on the Bulls -- behind Shaq Harrison and Kris Dunn -- in defensive rating. That's the number of points the opponent scores per 100 possessions while said player is on the floor.

The downside is Gafford averaged almost as many blocked shots (1.3) as rebounds (2.5). Rebounding was a major weakness of the Bulls this season, so Gafford needs to focus on the glass to be effective in the future.

But with shot-blocking and dunks alone, the 6-foot-10 center from Arkansas gave the Bulls a dimension that could give opponents some problems.

The Bulls have been in the habit of trading away second-round picks in recent years. The pick they used on Gafford was acquired from Memphis in the 2019 Justin Holiday trade.

Before that, the Bulls didn't have a second-rounder in 2018, sold their pick to Golden State in 2017, took Paul Zipser in 2016 and had no second-rounders in 2015.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

They had a chance to strike gold with their second-round pick in 2014. They chose Australian center Cameron Bairstow, then traded him to Detroit for Spencer Dinwiddie. Bulls fans know this story too well.

Dinwiddie is now playing at close to an all-star level and would be the Bulls' first or second-best player. But they cut him before the 2016-17 season, he was plucked off the Windy City Bulls roster by Brooklyn and became a star for the Nets.

That was one of many mistakes that led to changes in the Bulls' front office. But maybe Gafford will remain a positive memory as the last draft pick of the Gar-Pax era.

Bulls announce hires: The Bulls announced the addition of two assistant general managers -- J.J. Polk and Pat Connelly. These hires have been known for weeks, but became official on Wednesday.

Polk, who spent the past 10 years with New Orleans, will focus on strategic planning and salary cap management. Connelly is the younger brother of Arturas Karnisovas' boss in Denver, Tim Connelly. Pat was an assistant GM with Phoenix from 2013-18 and will lead the scouting department.

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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