Should the New Orleans Pelicans pursue Daniel Gafford?

Daniel Gafford, Washington Wizards. Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Daniel Gafford, Washington Wizards. Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Pelicans have declined Herbert Jones’ 1.8 million dollar team option. The goal of doing that was to negotiate a new deal with the defensive ace to keep him around long-term.

If everything goes as expected, Jones and the Pelicans will agree to a 4-year deal somewhere in the ballpark of 50 million dollars. That will leave the Pelicans with very little room to make substantial free-agent signings.

However, the Pelicans’ roster is far from a finished product. While they added shooting in the draft, they still have to figure out their rim protection situation. Last season, they finished dead last in opponent rim accuracy (per Cleaning the Glass).

One avenue for addressing this shortcoming is via trades. Earlier this week, it was reported that the team could be looking to move Jonas Valanciunas in order to acquire more rim protection.

And one potential player they could look at trading him for is Daniel Gafford, who could be on the move with the Washington Wizards now in full-on rebuild mode. But the question now becomes: is Gafford a good rim protector?

To answer this, we will look at the three statistics we identified for evaluating rim protection.

1. Block Percentage (BLK%)

Like Bismack Biyombo, Daniel Gafford is a splendid shot blocker. According to Cleaning the Glass, he placed in the 88th percentile in block percentage (BLK%) in his position last season (per Cleaning the Glass). And that mark may be underselling him some, too, as he played a ton of minutes next to Kristaps Porzingis (another big who likely took some of his shot-blocking opportunities). Do you know how we know this was the case? Before this year, he never had a season where he finished lower than the 94th percentile in this category.

2. DIFF (inside of six feet)

According to, opponents shot 2.1% less than expected (aka “DIFF) on shots inside of six feet that were contested by Gafford. That’s not a crazy impressive mark – right around what Andre Drummond was doing last season (he had a DIFF of -2.4%). But at least he was chipping away at the opposition’s efficiency to a degree.

3. On/Off Opponent Rim Frequency

Last season, Gafford was in the 73rd percentile in opponent on/off rim frequency. When he was on the floor, the opponent’s rim frequency decreased by 1.3% (per Cleaning the Glass). This was probably part of the benefit of sharing the floor with Porzingis, as having two titans on the floor likely helped deter teams from venturing into the paint. Before this season, Gafford never finished higher than the 58th percentile in this category.

Overall, Gafford is likely a better rim protector than anyone the Pelicans currently employ. However, he won’t completely change the outlook of the team’s defense overnight. Still, for the right price, he may be worth acquiring for the team as an upgrade over what they currently have.

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