The days of the Bulls overhyping second-round picks are over.
Coincidentally, they ended when the organization opted to make vice president of basketball operations John Paxson the voice of the franchise, replacing general manager Gar Forman in that role.
For Forman, Paul Zipser was the next Dirk Nowitzki and Erik Murphy the next Kevin Love.
So when Arkansas 6-11 center Daniel Gafford was introduced Monday, Paxson kept it simple, even though privately the organization is excited about his skills.
There were no comparisons, and the “we’re smarter than most organizations with this pick’’ attitude was absent.
“Daniel is a young man who can defend the basket, he can run, can finish around the rim,’’ Paxson said.
Coach Jim Boylen echoed Paxson’s words.
“Moving on to Daniel, there’s an art in the world of kind of knowing who you are, and he has a great feel for who he is as a player,’’ Boylen said of the 38th overall pick. “He adds to our vertical spacing, he adds to our athleticism, our length, our competitiveness, and he looks you in the eye when you talk to him. He has a great spirit.’’
Some scouts have likened Gafford to Clint Capela, who was selected by the Rockets with the 25th overall pick in the 2014 draft, but the Bulls aren’t putting the cart before the horse, and neither is Gafford.
“I go for every rebound,’’ Gafford said. “I try to protect the rim. Those are the main things I would say are my strengths. I’ve got a lot of things I’m good at and a lot of things I have to work on, like my jump shot. Basically just being able to maintain the same craft that I have right now. There are a lot of things that still need to be worked on; there are a lot of things that I can always add to my game at the same time.’’
He has come to the right place.
Projected starting center Wendell Carter Jr. is undersized and still has to show he can match up with bigger, stronger paint-eaters. Robin Lopez is an unrestricted free agent, and he likely will be wearing a different jersey by next month, and Lauri Markkanen can play center when the Bulls go small, but he’s obviously at his best as a stretch four.
And then, of course, there’s reserve Cristiano Felicio — and the $16-plus million the Bulls still owe him over the next two years — clogging up a roster spot.
If Gafford displays any of the energy and athleticism he showed in his two seasons at Arkansas, well, this is more than a guy who will eat up 10 to 12 minutes a game.
It doesn’t hurt that he has had plenty of conversations with fellow Razorbacks alum — and former Bull — Bobby Portis and sounded ready to carry on Portis’ legacy as a lunch-pail hard worker.
“Just having somebody like [Portis] on your side, to be able to talk to him . . . it helps you push yourself a lot more,’’ Gafford said. “I used to kind of shape my game after Bobby before I went to Arkansas. I watched one game, and I was a Bobby fan instantly, just like that.
‘‘Just seeing that he gave me somewhat of a shout-out on Twitter basically made me feel good.’’
So exactly what kind of player will Gafford become for the Bulls one day?
“I would say I’m the next Daniel Gafford because I’m still working on myself,’’ Gafford said.
Sorry, Gar, that will have to do for now.