I wrote an article a while back about how Razorback fans should respect freshman forward Daniel Gafford’s decision on whether to go to the NBA or stay for another year regardless of which option he chose.
Lucky for those who wanted him to return for another season playing in Bud Walton, the big man decided to stick around.
Gafford announced his decision via Twitter, saying the NBA might be in his future but not next season.
What does this mean for the Hogs moving forward? Well, barring an injury or an unfathomable dip in production, Gafford will be the undisputed star for the Razorbacks in year two, much like Chicago Bulls forward Bobby Portis was in his final season at Arkansas. The two are often compared, which has its merits despite a different style of play from each.
Knowing that each played for Razorback coach Mike Anderson, the numbers can be compared to represent what fans could possibly see from Gafford in his return.
For starters, it would be pertinent to compare Gafford’s freshman stats to Portis’.
While Gafford outplayed Portis in the blocks department, he failed to eclipse the Little Rock native in many other key statistics. Portis was a better scorer and rebounder, and Anderson trusted him to be on the court more.
Portis’ freshman season was certainly more productive based on the numbers, but his sophomore season was even better.
Portis started all 34 games as a freshman and all 36 games as a sophomore, but the numbers show his production increased in a number of ways. His minutes increased, as well as his point total, rebound numbers and field goal percentage. His range increased, and he became a threat from outside the paint. He even showed he had range from behind the arc, something he’s also shown at the next level.
If one were to assume Gafford’s productivity will increase as dramatically as Portis’ did, the possibilities are endless in terms of how the then-sophomore’s game would evolve.
Portis also had to share control of the offense with guard Michael Qualls, who went from averaging 11.6 points in Portis’ first season to 15.9 in his second. Gafford, on the other hand, will be tasked with much more of the offensive load, as the returning players did minimal work in the scoring department this past season.
Would Gafford have succeeded in the NBA had he foregone his sophomore, junior and senior seasons to pursue that opportunity? Luckily for Razorback fans, the answer to that question will be nothing more than speculation, as he’ll be back for another year.
Should he develop the way the man he’s often compared to did, Bud Walton is going to be in for some fantastic basketball when next season rolls around.