Daniel Gafford has been playing more for the Wizards lately and also scoring more. If he keeps it up, he could have a chance at NBA history.
After scoring 15 points on 7-for-8 shooting in a loss to the Thunder on Friday night, Gafford is now shooting a pristine 74.7% from the field on the year. The highest field goal percentage by any player in a single season in NBA history is 74.2%, set by Knicks big man Mitchell Robinson in 2019-20. Technically, Gafford is on track to pass it.
The only problem is Gafford hasn't made enough shots to qualify for official leaderboards. Through 40 games on the season, he has made 127 out of 170 total shots. To be on the leaderboard, you have to make at least 300 field goals over the course of an 82-game regular season. So, prorated to 40 games, Gafford would need to have made 147.
Because Gafford falls short of the threshold, Nic Claxton of the Brooklyn Nets is the current official leader in field goal percentage. At 73.7%, he is on pace for the second-highest shooting percentage of all-time.
Robinson topped Wilt Chamberlain's 1972-73 record of 72.7%, which stood for 47 years before it was broken, but now there are several players who could be in that territory this season. Gafford and Claxton are two of four players this year shooting over 70% with at least 100 field goals made. The others are Walker Kessler (72.5%) and Robinson once again (70.5%).
Gafford, 24, will need to start making more baskets while maintaining his percentage to go for the all-time crown. That is, of course, much easier said than done.
But lately 'The Landlord' has been scoring like he's never done before. Gafford has reached double-figures now in five straight games for the first time in his career.
Over his last five games, Gafford has averaged 13.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game while shooting 75% from the field. Going back to Dec. 2, when his minutes began to increase, he has scored 10.7 points per game while shooting 75.2%.
So, the sample size is growing. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. also seems to like Gafford's pairing with Kristaps Porzingis, which puts Gafford in the starting lineup.
As long as he's playing games and getting minutes, he will have the opportunity to make more shots. Gafford also gets a fair share of easy looks alongside Porzingis, who draws the attention of the defense. And having a point guard like Monte Morris to set him up also helps Gafford's cause.
Gafford gets nearly all of his buckets around the rim. He shoots 83.3% within three feet of the basket and is fifth among qualified players in points per possession on transition plays (1.41).
Lineups with Morris, Kyle Kuzma, Porzingis and Gafford, (i.e. the regular starters whether Bradley Beal plays or not) have a 120.6 offensive rating and a +10.1 net rating. Even though the Wizards have lost their last two games, Unseld Jr. doesn't have much reason to break that group up.
Gafford is certainly benefitting from it. Anytime you're in the same category as Chamberlain, you know you're doing something right.