The Cavaliers will have the 1st pick and the 19th pick in this upcoming draft. In the next few weeks here at Right Down Euclid, we will be profiling players the Cavaliers might draft in the first round on June 27th. Today, we profile Jeff Withey.
Tale of the Tape
Name: Jeff Withey
Weight: 220 lbs.
Honors: 2013 2nd-Team All-American, NABC Defensive Player of the Year, Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, All-Big 12 1st Team
2012-2013 Per Game Stats: 13.7 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.8 SPG, 3.9 BPG, 58.2 FG%, 71.4 FT%
NCAA Tournament Stats: 15.0 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 5.7 BPG in 3 NCAA Tournament Games
It still does not seem set in stone that the Cavaliers will take Nerlens Noel with the 1st overall pick in this year’s draft. If the Cavs do take someone else, they will likely look to take a center with the 19th pick. Unfortunately, it appears that in many mock drafts, the majority of this year’s center crop will be taken before the Cavs select again. This makes Withey an interesting prospect. While most mocks have him going somewhere in the mid-20s, Withey will definitely be available at that spot, and as one of the best defensive centers in the NCAA last year, might be worth a look for Cleveland.
Physically, Withey looks the part, standing at 6’11”, 230 pounds, with an impressive 7’2” wingspan. While he’s not as physically imposing as, say, Gorgui Dieng or Rudy Gobart, he still has NBA size. However, Withey does have some physical red flags that are worth noting. For someone who was a great rim protector in college, Withey put up some mediocre numbers at the draft combine for speed and explosiveness. Withey’s vertical was only measured at 29 inches, the worst of anyone at the combine. This is indicative of a lack of lower-body strength and explosiveness, which seems relevant if Withey is going to be effectively challenging shots at the next level. He also tested with the 4th-slowest lane agility time, showing a lack of lateral quickness. That’s a huge red flag for him. If Withey’s label is as a shot blocker and rim protector, it’s very concerning that he tested poorly in every drill that lends to being effective as a rim protector in the NBA. Outside of size and length, there’s not much going for Withey here.
Withey is extremely limited as an offensive player. He’s quite passive offensively, rarely looking to have the ball in his hands or move effectively through an offensive set. He’s a great finisher, with soft touch and the ability to put the ball in the hoop during fast breaks and off the pick-and-roll. However, outside of that, there really isn’t much to like here. Withey’s post play isn’t good, as he has no real moves and often struggles just establishing position on the block. He doesn’t really have any notable shooting range, and he’s really bad on the offensive glass, operating at a pretty low rate of 8.8% on the offensive boards. Withey just seems to want no part of the offensive side of the ball, ofter disappearing for large stretches and struggling to affect the game at all on this end.
Withey is a pretty solid defensive player. He is excellent in the low post, using his length to overcome his strength deficit and frustrating opponents who think they have a good angle on him. He also does a great job of affecting shots without fouling, even though he doesn’t have great speed or strength. He’s not going to be a great weakside shot blocker, but he does have value as a team defender, mainly because he’s amazing at closing out on outside shooters, even at his size and speed. Withey isn’t great at defending the pick-and-roll, which was a major reason Kansas fell apart in the Sweet 16 against Michigan, as Trey Burke and Mitch McGary destroyed Withey and Elijah Robinson down the stretch with PnRs. This is going to be a bit of a problem in the NBA, where it’s a more common offensive weapon. Withey does have the tools to be a great defender in the NBA, but his struggles with the PnR are really concerning.
Here’s my huge issue with Withey. For a player with limited athleticism, you’d hope Withey would have an insane motor to compensate for that. However, Withey can be extremely passive on offense, reluctant to exert much energy on that end and prone to disappearing for stretches. He also can give up if he gets frustrated on both ends, like what happened against Michigan. I hate to keep bringing up one game, but this was a theme with Withey throughout the season. I’m also skeptical of Withey growing as an NBA player. He’s coming from Kansas, far and wide regarded as one of the best strength and conditioning programs in the nation, so there are definitely question marks about how much he will improve in that aspect. He’s also 23, which also leads to questions about his room for improvement. Above all else, though, Withey needs to be in an strict environment so he learns to give maximal effort. Otherwise, he is going to fail in the NBA.
Canis Hoopus of SB Nation came out with this guide today, which was very helpful in determining a comparison for Jeff Withey (And is just a fabulous read in general). My comparison is former Sonic and Wizard Calvin Booth, who I totally forgot about until his name showed up as a Withey comparison. Booth was mostly a rotational player in the NBA, a decent defender who was very limited offensively. Booth also blocked an absurd amount of shots throughout his 4 years at Penn State, but never really developed any other part of his game, averaging just 10/8 per 36 minutes throughout his NBA career. I think this is where we’re headed with Withey. Decent defender, excellent NBA size, but horribly limited offensively and never anything more than a rotation player for an awful team.
How Does He Fit on the Cavaliers?
I don’t really want the Cavs to take Withey unless he’s available in the 2nd round. Withey looks a lot like a defensive version of Tyler Zeller, in that he’s a big body who’s mediocre on one end and completely lost on the other. Withey will take a lot of development to be a success in the NBA, and I don’t think it’s worth it for the Cavs to take Withey when there will be other players available who can at least make some sort of impact right away. Withey would get buried in Cleveland, even behind Zeller. He needs to go somewhere where he can get stashed in the D-League and develop, which is why I think he’s a decent pick for Brooklyn three picks after Cleveland.