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Daniel Gafford Shines in First Real Opportunity, Bulls do not

Whether Boylen saw the “#FreeGafford” hashtag trending on Twitter or not, we finally saw the rookie unleashed from the bench to show this Bulls fanbase what he is, in fact, capable of.

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The Bulls have looked terrible. From the rotations by the coaching staff to the execution by the players – this season has been a disaster so far. We had to wait 14 games, but we finally saw rookie center Daniel Gafford get his first chance to play meaningful minutes for the Chicago Bulls. He provided the fanbase with a glimmer of hope.

A spark plug off the bench was needed in last night’s game against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. Daniel Gafford provided just that. The rookie big man out of Arkansas got his first opportunity to play regular rotation minutes for the Bulls, and he shined.

The Bulls, as per usual, got off to a slow start and needed energy off the bench. Gafford provided that last night. He changed the tempo of the game. He was engaged on the defensive end and was throwing down vicious dunks whenever he had the opportunity.

In the early stages of this season, the Bulls have lacked serious energy, rim protection, and interior defense. Aside from Wendell Carter Jr., Daniel Gafford ticks all three of those boxes. Time and time again the bench has brought the Bulls back into games, and they did that last night, led by the 6-foot-10 big man. He brought energy which the Bulls main unit lacked and led this Bulls’ second unit back into the game at one point after trailing by double digits.

While he did a bit of everything, including pouring in six dunks, Gafford also blocked two shots, good for a team-high. A highlight play last night was blocking a cutting Giannis Antetokounmpo into the second row. The 21-year-old does it all. He may not have played many minutes in the decisive fourth quarter, but his game has provided a disappointed Bulls fanbase with a glimmer of hope. He finished with 21 points, five rebounds, and two blocks while shooting 10/12 from the field, good for 83.3%.

With Luke Kornet out with a nose injury, his strengths are the Bulls’ biggest weaknesses. Now that he has been unleashed from the bench, this is the perfect chance for Daniel Gafford to solidify a spot in this rotation, which includes no real rim-protecting threats aside from starting center Wendell Carter Jr. Whether Boylen saw the “#FreeGafford” hashtag trending on Twitter or not, we finally saw the rookie unleashed from the bench to show this Bulls fanbase what he is, in fact, capable of. Coach Boylen said after the game: “Daniel Gafford knows exactly who he is and exactly what he needs to do to help the team. That is a skill at our level. I’m really happy for him.”

After the game, Gafford spoke to Bulls insider K.C. Johnson, and said, “Whenever I step on the court I go all out. I’m going to give my all. I finally showed people what I can do and showed people what I can do to help this team win.” No question, he has shown us what he can do, and the Bulls desperately need help after a disappointing 4-10 start to the season.

While Gafford’s performance was a bright spot, the Bulls eventually fell 115-101 to the Bucks after maintaining a slim lead in the fourth quarter. The idea of making the playoffs seems to be a dream rather than reality at this point. But what we do know now is that Daniel Gafford provides a spark off the bench, which could be beneficial to this team when star players Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen have been struggling mightily on both ends of the floor.

A new option has arisen in Chicago, and after a stellar game in his first real opportunity for the Bulls, it is likely we see more of Daniel Gafford in the near future. Let me know your thoughts on Gafford’s first game in the regular rotation and if you see him as a mainstay on this Bulls team going forward on Twitter @joshjbullshoops, or email me at joshjbullshoops@gmail.com.


Featured Photo: ChicagoBulls/Twitter

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NBA Writer based in New Zealand.

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