Bulls’ Former Draft Pick Shines in Season-Saving Win for Wizards

Daniel Gafford

Getty Daniel Gafford hangs on the rim after a dunk against the Philadelphia 76ers on May 23.

As the Chicago Bulls watch the NBA Playoffs continue on from home, they’re watching former players left and right shine in new situations, some admittedly more than others.

Bobby Portis, Cameron Payne, Chandler Hutchison, Derrick Rose, Jabari Parker, Jimmy Butler, Kris Dunn, Robin Lopez, Shaquille Harrison, and Taj Gibson all made the playoffs in a year where their former team came up short.

And former second-round pick Daniel Gafford of course, who they sent to the Washington Wizards at the trade deadline.

The 22-year old center is averaging 12.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, and two blocks per game. And his latest game fueled the Wizards to a Game Four victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, keeping their season alive.

It’s safe to say that’s a guy the Chicago Bulls could have used in their late-season push for a playoff berth.


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Gafford Goes Off in First Career Start

Down three games to none, head coach Scott Brooks put Daniel Gafford in the starting lineup for Game Four, as he looked for answers for Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid.

The 22-year old responded, and in a big way, going off for 12 points and five blocks on the night. The Washington Wizards won 122-114, and they’ll live to play on in Game Five in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Gafford’s looking like the steal acquisition of the season. He’s brought rim protection and energy to a team that couldn’t have needed it any more when he arrived, and still needed it in Game Four of the playoffs.

How should the Chicago Bulls feel watching his play on the biggest stage? It’s complicated.

Because it’s not that they let him walk for nothing. Troy Brown Jr. and Daniel Theis came back in that three-team deal that also included the Boston Celtics. But neither has come close to the impact Gafford’s had in DC.

But Theis, the centerpiece of the aforementioned trade, well his time with the Bulls may already be over.


A Theis Return Next Season is Unlikely

Head of Chicago Bulls operations Arturas Karnisovas opted for experience over raw talent at the trade deadline, sending Daniel Gafford out for soon-to-be starter Daniel Theis.

And the trade didn’t backfire, at least, not immediately.

Theis was good for the Bulls, and as previously mentioned ended up starting for his last 14 games of the season. he averaged 10 points and 6.5 rebounds in that span, but Chicago went just 6-8 in that span.

A lot of the Bulls’ shorthanded push for the postseason can be traced back to a lack of practice (and playing) time for their deadline acquisitions; Daniel Theis and Nikola Vucevic primarily.

It also didn’t help that Zach LaVine sat for an extended period for COVID-19 related issues, either.

Still, none of this would be as problematic if Theis was under contract for another season, set to practice with the team, and participate in training camp among other summer activities with the Bulls.

But the four-year veteran is an unrestricted free agent, and as it stands today, most people you talk to would guess he heads elsewhere on a slightly inflated deal this offseason.

Both Darnell Mayberry and K.C. Johnson, insiders for The Athletic and NBC Sports respectively, predicted Theis won’t return to Chicago for the 2021-2022 season.

And just last week, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer noted the Charlotte Hornets’ interest in the veteran.

So as Chicago Bulls fans watch from home as Daniel Gafford rises to new heights, extra salt is thrown in the wound when looking ahead to an offseason where the team’s return for the youth is likely to walk out the door.

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