2013 NBA Draft Profiles: Jeff Withey

The Knicks, as strange as it sounds, have the 24th pick in this year’s NBA Draft (I know, I’m still recouping from typing that).  In this post, I’m going to touch on my favorite player in this year’s 2013 NBA draft class, Jeff Withey, the incredibly dominant center from Kansas.

Withey played four seasons at Kansas; his first two seasons were playing behind Cole Aldrich and Marcus and Markieff Morris, so he didn’t get lots of playing time until his junior year, where he started getting all of the significant minutes from Kansas coach, Bill Self.  This year, his senior year, was his best year, as that is displayed in the lion’s share of college players. Kansas fell short in the Final Four, because Trey Burke decided to go off in the latter moments of the fourth quarter, and in overtime.

Withey’s absolute best ability is his shot blocking ability; it’s simply amazing. When his arms oscillate, prepare to be mesmerized.  There are literally no words to describe it other than being epic. You’d figure that the best defensive player in college would have the highest blocks average with 3.9 BPG. To go along with his blocks average, Withey also amassed a 14.3 BLK% (block percentage), which lead the Big 12. He broke the Kansas single season blocks record set by former Jazz blocking legend, Greg Ostertag, which was almost broken by former Kansas alum, Cole Aldrich, a few years back, who is still struggling to find his niche in the NBA. Withey has cat-like reflexes with precise timing while trying to block shots. Get this: his blocks average per 40 minutes is an astronomical, astounding, 4.9. That’s absolutely epic. He was Kansas’ minister of the paint, indubitably, while they had Ben McLemore scoring over essentially everyone.

However, several draft scouts bring up Withey’s age and his offensive ineptness as the main topics of concern when it comes to the cons of drafting him. At 23, he’s a year older than the Kansas graduating senior class. With that being said, scouts are heavily questioning his upside and whether he can fully prosper as a legitimate NBA center. I have no idea why I’m criticizing my favorite player in this draft, (hey, at least I’m not being biased!) but you have to.

For someone that has a very thin frame for a 7 footer, at 222 pounds, Withey’s overall strength is very questionable, particularly his upper body strength and foot coordination.  This is kind of a generalization, but tall people are usually maladroit, just talk to me (in case you wonder, I’m tall and uncoordinated). Guys like Withey aren’t really that fast in transition either. A defensive ascendant is predominantly a powerhouse in something that is half-court oriented. Withey would thrive in Mike Woodson’s offensive system; a half-court grind with the three ball implemented at a high clip. As far as floor spacing goes, he can space the floor well with his ongoing developing mid-range jumper that he was starting to hit at a semi-consistent rate in his senior year. And, like Tyson Chandler, he is a very reliable pick and roll option. You’d rather have him in pick and roll situations than post situations, because not only is his finishing better than his posting up, but you just wouldn’t want to have him post up at any time. Besides, both Chandler and him are non-post-up options to begin with; they can be friends.

I don’t think Withey will become a full-time NBA center, but he has the maximum potential to become a full-time backup center at the least. He could be the defensive anchor that he was at Kansas coming off the bench in the NBA. The Knicks have a front-court void that they need to fill, in that what the hell did Marcus Camby do this year besides sitting out with plantar fascilitis for essentially three quarters of the season, and Mike Woodson holding something against Camby for some odd reason, even when he was ruled “healthy.” We also have to take into account that Camby might retire at any moment. Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace’s feet turned swollen to stone. Ditto to Camby’s feet. After a very surprising late-season signing, Kenyon Martin may re-sign with the Knicks for another one year deal, and Tyson Chandler has one more year left on his contract. Without the K-Mart signing, Tyson would have been going solo as the sole offensive option. His minutes average was 32.8 a game, and his neck was acting up every once in awhile.

Withey could assist the front-court with his youth (wait, veteran leadership out of college?!?). After all, the Knicks’ veterans experiment didn’t work out. A rim protector like Withey would suffice. Some draft experts have him as an early to mid second round pick, which is ludicrous. He’s a late first rounder at best. If you take away his defensive competence, then he would be very incompetent with just his offensive game, which is satisfactory, but it doesn’t quite fulfill the requirements of a first round pick. Depth at the center position is very vital, considering that Camby and K-Mart will be the two guys playing behind Tyson (if Camby is alive). The Knicks picking Withey would be excellent use of their first round pick, and would fill that front-court void.

Follow James on Twitter @j_griff