5 Studs from Mavericks' NBA Finals clinching win over Timberwolves

Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic
Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic / David Berding/GettyImages
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2. Stud - Daniel Gafford

Before the 2024 NBA trade deadline, the Dallas Mavericks had no depth behind Dereck Lively II at the center position. Any time Lively II missed time, they were forced to use Dwight Powell and despite his importance to the organization, he isn't good enough to play consistent minutes for a playoff team.

Dallas' trade for Daniel Gafford immediately alleviated their need for a backup big man, and he became a fan favorite for Mavs fans immediately. His energy, rim protection, and ability to finish around the rim are loved by Mavs fans, and he was solid in Game 5 against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Gafford finished with 11 points, nine rebounds, and one block while shooting 3-3 from the field. He had multiple strong finishes around the bucket, shot efficiently from the free-throw line, and was excellent down low when protecting the rim.

His presence down low is something that has gone unnoticed in this series due to him being outplayed by Lively II, but he has been stout when protecting the rim and battling in the paint. He and Lively II form an excellent one-two punch at center, and they'll need to be at their best as they'll be facing a strong Boston Celtics backcourt.

Gafford's strength and tenacity will be needed in the next series, and his anger from the Game 4 loss carried over into Game 5 and helped lead Dallas to an NBA Finals appearance.