- Zach Torpie
Sophomore Big Men Set to Battle it Out for Lottery Position
The 2019 NBA draft is sparse of lottery talented big men, but two returning sophomores could see big rises in their draft stock with improvement on their freshman seasons. Jontay Porter is stepping out of his brother’s shadow and will be the unquestioned man in Mizzou, while Daniel Gafford wants to show that Arkansas is more than a first round exit. Jontay Porter and Daniel Gafford represent two very different types of big men but each could lead their teams to new glory in the coming NCAA season.
Jontay Porter provides an offensive skill-set uncommon in the NBA today he is a true stretch 5 shooting a robust 36% from 3 on 5.4 attempts per 40. He is deadly off the catch and provides a lethal pick-and-pop partner. During Missouri games, he could often be found cutting to the soft spot in the defense for a turnaround jumper. Jontay also offers high level passing at the center position, with 3.7 assists per 40. Jontay could find the open shooter when doubled or hit the cutter out of the post. Jontay’s post offense shows potential with a turnaround jumper, pump fakes and up and under moves but he shoots only 58.5% at the rim and struggles finishing against length and contact. Jontay had advanced ball handling for a big, but lacks finishing ability that may prevent him from ever becoming a rim runner.
Jontay lacks length or explosive athleticism, holding back his defensive potential. However, he holds his own in the post, relying on steals and stripping opposing big men in the lane. Jontay’s potential will be determined by his defensive improvement in year two and showing that he will be able to hang with NBA athletes defensively.
Daniel Gafford offers elite rim running potential with elite athleticism and leaping ability. Gafford puts constant pressure on the rim by opening up air space slamming alley-oops and put-backs at a moment’s notice. Gafford shot an impressive 78.8% at the rim, usually opting to ensure his points with a thunderous dunk. The downside with Gafford is, besides his rim running, he offers little else. Gafford has a limited post game and doesn’t possess quality footwork. Gafford also has a limited jumper hitting only 29.7% of his shots away from the rim and shows limited growth potential with only a 53% free throw percentage. Gafford will remain pigeon holed as a rim runner for his career unless he shows development this year.
Gafford offers elite rim protection potential sending back 3.8 shots per 40 minutes. The leaping ability and length he possesses allows him to block shots at a very high rate. In the process of a game you can see players hesitate to drive because of the presence he commands. Gafford does not defend the perimeter particularly well as guards get by him with a quick first step but Gafford has shown a penchant for pinning shots off the backboard of players he let get by. In the NBA defense will be his calling card and will likely pave the way to minutes for him.
Jontay Porter and Daniel Gafford are two very different players that will offer very different skill-sets to prospective NBA teams. Porter will offer the new age playmaking stretch 5 while Gafford will become the prototypical rim running shot swatting big man that all teams can use. The teams looking at potential fit between these two will have to decide if they value offensive upside or defensive potential. Porter will likely have the higher ceiling as big men as offensively skilled as him don’t come along very often, but game-changing defense could be enough for a lottery team to take a chance on Gafford. Whomever is chosen first next year will be based upon what team’s value and who shows more improvement on their weaknesses this season.
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