Wizards Bench Daniel Gafford Amid Slide; Primed For Big Trade?

Washington Wizards, NBA
NBA Analysis Network

When the Washington Wizards made the trade with the Chicago Bulls to acquire Danial Gafford, there was a lot of excitement in the early goings of the situation about his defensive impact. He even earned a three-year, $40.2 million contract in the process. Now, could he land in NBA trade rumors as the Feb. 10 deadline nears?

Gafford currently finds himself not receiving any playing time on a nightly basis now that Montrezl Harrell and Thomas Bryant both are available to play. Trying to play all three big men became a challenge for Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr., so he opted to remove Gafford from the rotation.

“Trying to play the three bigs, it became very choppy. I know the guys didn’t like it, I didn’t necessarily like it,” Unseld Jr. said, via Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

Unseld Jr. did mention that his current center rotation as the plan is to “give it a stretch and see how it goes.” 

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The results that both Bryant and Harrell achieved could certainly be classified as underwhelming—combining for 10 points overall. The performance even warranted a reporter to ask if Gafford could have fared better.

“You could argue that. I can only speculate, I don’t know,” Unseld Jr. said.

The Wizards appear to be primed to make some sort of move at the NBA trade deadline at some point, whether it involves moving on from one of their big men or a different move altogether.

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Right now, the Washington Wizards aspire to make the playoffs but could end up falling short of that goal. Washington is currently riding a five-game losing streak—longest in the Eastern Conference with only the tanking Oklahoma City Thunder having a longer slide around the NBA as a whole.

As a result of the losing streak, the Wizards already are on the outside looking in when it comes to holding a play-in spot in the Eastern Conference standings. The Atlanta Hawks, who have won six consecutive games, have overtaken them by a half game.

It still appears as though the Wizards will need to determine which center they actually want to part with in a potential trade. For what it’s worth, Montrezl Harrell and Thomas Bryant both are playing on expiring deals while Gafford’s extension doesn’t even start until the 2023-24 season.

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A team needing a stretch-big could pursue Thomas Bryant for that type of impact while a team that seeks a post-up threat and interior energy big likely would be inclined to pursue Montrezl Harrell. Meanwhile, Daniel Gafford would require greater long-term commitment to acquire.

For the Washington Wizards, the team appears to be in need of a more dynamic overall talent at the center position. Names like Domantas Sabonis, Christian Wood, Myles Turner, and others have been floated as potential options, but only being able offer a 2028 first-round pick in NBA trade deadline scenarios is limiting.

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