Season in Review: Jeff Withey

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Published: May 23, 2014
Jeff Withey

Last offseason the Pelicans sent Robin Lopez and Terrel Harris to Portland and Greivis Vasquez to Sacramento for Tyreke Evans from the Kings. Oh, and they also got a skinny seven footer from Portland named Jeff Withey. The one word came to mind when I heard news of the trade, “steal”. See I figured it would take about as much as Lopez and Vasquez to get Tyreke. I was expecting that. I wasn’t expecting to get a guy like Withey, who was quickly forgotten in Tyreke’s shadow, as a sort of sweetener. I followed Withey at KU and thought he could help sure up our big rotation and low post defense. I was pretty excited to have him on my team.

While Withey was not incredible during his rookie year, he did show some of the promise I was hoping to see before the season. At the end of the day, it is hard to write a lot about a guy that played in only 58 games and 684 minutes, but let’s set the stage, examine his production, and talk about his future with the Pelicans.

 

Background

Jeff Withey was one of those nerd types that went to college for all four years. (Okay, He may not be a “nerd”, but he did graduate a year early with a degree in American studies). Sticking around Kansas so long meant that he came in to the league at 23. I never really get worked up about a player’s age when they are drafted, but Withey’s age did concern some. First, there will always be the concern that older guys won’t develop as much as younger players. Second, Withey’s height is pretty ideal for a center, but his frame is a bit small and fragile. Coming in to the draft, he could have added some more muscle. A lot of commentators and fans were wondering why Withey hadn’t already put on some extra muscle, since he had four years to do so at Kansas.

The other big concern about Withey before the season was his offensive skill set. He was a productive player on offense in college, but he was by no means skilled or polished. Some felt that he would be limited to put backs and easy baskets around the rim, as he would lack the strength necessary to establish low post position or the skills to score from the post. Despite concerns about his age, weight, and offense, Withey was a two time Big 12 defensive player of the year, and he had improve tremendously his last two years at Kansas. He might not have a huge upside, but he could also contribute something now.

Ultimately, Withey was taken with the 39th pick of the draft. I expected him to go higher, but it doesn’t matter much as he ultimately ended up with the Pelicans anyway. Now, let’s take look at what he did on the floor for the Pelicans.

 

Production in 2013-14

Withey didn’t play a lot this season and that annoyed a lot of fans. They didn’t have a particular reason they wanted him to play, but they did like one thing about him. He wasn’t Greg Stiemsma. Frankly, I’m not sure if that was ever very fair. Stiemsma struggled mightily during this season, but Withey had his own shortcomings as well.

The Bad 

1)   Withey wasn’t terribly effective on offense. He shot an okay percent from the floor (53.5%), but another player assisted over 80% of his made field goals. Interpret that anyway you like, but it certainly doesn’t mean that Withey was creating and making his own shot.

2)   His rebounding numbers could be a bit better across the board. He got pushed around, when fighting underneath the glass. He has to gain weight or find a way to diminish that disadvantage.

The Good

1)   He played defense without fouling too much.

2)   He was a solid shot blocker.

3)   He shot a solid rate from the free throw line (71.2%) for a big.

The Rest of the Story

Take a look at Withey’s per 36 numbers from his rookie season.

FG FGA FG% 3P% 2P% FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
3.6 6.8 0.535 0 0.539 0.712 7.9 1.4 0.8 2.6 1.1 3.8 10

 

Not bad for a 2nd round rookie. Obviously, there weren’t a lot of games, where Withey started or played big minutes, but there are some useful things to take away from this numbers. For example, I love the fact that he fouled only 3.8 times per 36, compared to 6.0 fouls from Stiemsma and 7.1 from Ajinca.

7.9 rebounds per 36 isn’t great for an NBA center. You’d like to see that number at around 9 or above, but it isn’t anything to get worked up over, either. If you move on to some of his advanced statistics, you find some more encouraging numbers. He has a nice PER and WS/48. Nevertheless, we can only say so much about Withey’s rookie season. 684 minutes is a pretty small sample size, and really, he didn’t get a whole lot of opportunities. If you’re a Pelicans fan, you have to hope that Withey will be able to make a significant jump this offseason to become a more consistent contributor.

Outlook

Withey is under contract until the end of next season for an assumed minimum salary. I started this review off by saying how much I liked Withey in college and was excited to have him on my team, but frankly, I’m not positive he is in this team’s long term plans. A lot of that depends on other guys getting healthy, and what the Pelicans want to do during the offseason. The only thing Withey can control is his own situation. He needs to come in a bit beefier next season with a bit more offensive polish. Who knows if he can do all that in 3 months, but that is probably what it will take for him to carve out a larger role on this team.

5 comments
NOEngineer
NOEngineer

Withey played to his strengths and played with the right attitude.    On a team with AD and Tyreke (let alone Holliday and Anderson when they come back), I don't want Withey "creating his own shot".   We have guys for that.    

I guess the excuse in "small sample size" for not including Jeff's defensive rating or offensive rating when on and off the court.    Or for not mentioning that he was our third most efficient player behind AD and Aminu when he was on the court, as measured by WP48.    WP48 highly values rebounding (which I certainly would like to see him improve), so he must be doing other things right like avoiding fouls and turnovers and bad shots.

I was hoping that someone would provide team rebounding percentages when he was on and off the court.  My feeling is that while he didn't grab as many rebounds as expected, that he was more effective than most of our bigs at preventing his man from grabbing them (the box out!), perhaps allowing a guard or Aminu to get it for the Pelicans.

I don't think Withey is the entire answer at center, but he did well paired with AD, he can run the floor, he makes smart decisions with the ball, he blocks shots, and he is a bargain.   I'd like to see his minutes double or triple next year.    Hopefully his rebounding picks up!

xman20002000
xman20002000

Well there is a rotation if everything remains the same...

Caffeinedisaster
Caffeinedisaster

@NOEngineer I agree that he's better than our options of Steimsma & Ajinca.  Also, I don't want to see him create his own shot either, merely become a solid finisher at the offensive end.