New Orleans Pelicans Season in Review: Jeff Withey

Published: May 15, 2015

Sometimes things just don’t break your way–and for Jeff Withey, the offseason addition of Omer Asik all but promised that he would not see many minutes.  It’s not that Withey doesn’t have NBA talent–he does–but he’s not as good as Davis, Anderson, Asik, or Ajinca, and this year, he struggled to get any minutes on the floor.  In sum, Withey played under 300 minutes this season, and many of those minutes were either in extremely short stints or in moments where the game’s outcome was already decided.  How do you evaluate a player when he’s competing against opposing players who may not even last on an NBA roster?  How do you evaluate players during garbage time?  These are the kinds of questions you have to ask in Withey’s limited run this season.. and they don’t have definitive answers.  Time reveals trends, and we didn’t see enough time to make real, accurate assessments about Withey’s season.. so what you see below is merely an attempt to explain what I did see and how it projects to Withey’s future as a backup big in the NBA.

Stats Snapshot

WIthey 2

On the whole, Withey’s stats are encouraging–13.6 points per game isn’t going to leave scouts drooling, but it’s a solid clip.  Add that to a True Shooting Percentage of 57% and you can see that, statistically, Withey did produce in his limited minutes.  His rebounding also showed a slight improvement, as Withey corralled more offensive rebounds per game en route to a respectable, albeit slightly below average for his position, total rebounding rate.  In sum, Withey’s offensive rebounding was above average and his defensive rebounding below average–nothing to get excited about, nothing to sneeze at.  His block rate remained solid, as 2.5 blocks per 36 minutes would place him in some very good company.

Current State

Right now, you can essentially count on Withey to come in and contest shots at the rim.  We saw it in the National Championship (Kansas, Kentucky)–Withey is a shot-blocking machine who held Anthony Davis to a miserable shooting night on the biggest stage.  Withey combines a 7’2 wingspan with decent leaping ability and good timing into very good shot-blocking.

On offense, Withey is still very much a work in progress.  He isn’t good at finishing at the rim in traffic, though he can catch a bounce feed and elevate if given a step.  He does a solid job of creating openings for himself by remaining active, which helps contribute to his impressive offensive rebounding total.  The hope this year was that Withey would continue to develop his midrange shot and possibly become a respectable shooter from there–but with only 8 attempts from midrange on the season, it is simply impossible to conclude whether his shooting is there yet. His efficiency around the rim isn’t very good, which reinforces his inability to finish strong against shot-blockers–but when Withey does get his shot to the rim, he has an above average touch for a backup big man. His left hand, however, is non-existent at this point, or is at least something that we haven’t seen yet.

Withey is stuck in a positional dilemma–he’s not mobile enough to chase around smaller PFs and he’s not bulky enough to hold his ground versus bigger centers. As of now, he’s someone who you can put in if you need rim protection and the opposing center isn’t a hefty post threat.  His offensive rebounding is good, but his defensive rebounding is subpar and is unlikely to improve much as he progresses into his career. His defense in space isn’t as bad as someone like Ajinca’s, but it’s not particularly great either. It’s passable.  On offense, he’s good enough to create a minor threat should the defense choose to focus its attention on other players, but that’s about all at this point.

Moving Forward

At this juncture, Withey looks more and more like a 5th big–a guy who won’t see minutes on a regular basis, but given injuries, can step in and do an adequate job without messing things up for other people.  I know that doesn’t seem like high praise, but as we saw at the beginning of this year, having bench players who can’t hold their own play even 3 or 4 minutes a time can murder your momentum.  Withey is of a higher caliber than that and is someone you can trust to do his job a few minutes a night.  There is value in that.

Withey’s shot-blocking is certainly his calling card and one that would be even more valuable if he could hold his ground in the paint versus bigger players.  If he can continue to develop his midrange shot, there’s hope that Withey could be a 5th big on a good team that could both contribute on offense and defense given the chance.  Shot-blocking, offensive rebounding, and some occasional finishing around the rim?  It’s probably enough for him to stick around the NBA for a few more years.


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