Prospect Watch: Jeff Withey

Jeff Withey
Jeff Withey (AP)

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Jeff Withey
Jeff Withey (AP)

College: Kansas
Class: Senior
Height: 6’11”
Weight: 230
Wingspan: 7’3″

Per-game stats: 32 G, 30.9 MIN, 13.7 PTS., 8.5 REB, 3.9 BLK, 0.9 AST, 2.0 TOV, .580 FG%, .714 FT%, 2.1 FLS

Why should the Nets draft Jeff Withey? Withey is a defensive center with excellent reflexes, a solid wingspan, and a impressive college track record. He went from being a college basketball afterthought when he entered Kansas to becoming the all-time blocks leader of arguably the most storied basketball program in the NCAA.

The former volleyball player has a limited offensive game, but what he does, he does well. Withey ranked as the top finisher in the nation in non post-up situation, converting on 79.2% of his attempts.

He would work best in a system with a good point guard to utilize his soft hands and long arms. Deron Williams coached by Jason Kidd sound about right?

Withey will probably never be a starting center in the NBA, but he wouldn’t need to be in Brooklyn. The Nets have Brook Lopez; you may have heard of him. The beanstalk Jayhawk could provide solid minutes in a reserve center role, freeing up Andray Blatche to move back to his more natural power forward position if he sticks around.

Why shouldn’t the Nets draft Jeff Withey? Do you really want to use the number 22 pick in the draft on a guy whose ceiling is Greg Stiemsma?

The Nets aren’t getting a star at 22 (though the Nuggets did get Kenneth “The Manimal” Faried at 22 in 2011), but they might be better served picking someone with at least a little more upside. Or, if you want to go the “win now” route, you might want to go with someone who is more of a sure thing as a backup. Withey qualifies for “What you see is what you get” as much as anyone in this draft class.

Offensively, Withey only took 14 jump shots (14!) in his senior year in Lawrence.  The narrative goes that if Withey can develop a mid-range jumper, he’ll stick around in the NBA. The Nets worked him out as a pick-and-pop 5, trying his range out to the three-point line. But since he is 23, it is hard to imagine there is that much room for growth.

Withey’s block numbers in college were impressive – especially with only 2.1 fouls per game – but with his high center of gravity and lanky frame, he will get pushed off the ball. Add the athleticism in the association, Withey’s lack of killer instincts and struggles with quick guards off the pick and roll (see Burke, Trey), and you have the makings of a D-League center.

Will Jeff Withey be available at 22? Yes. Withey projects to be somewhere in the late first round to early second. He should be available at 22 should the Nets still have this pick and have been impressed by Withey’s hair.

If needed, should the Nets move up to draft Jeff Withey? No. But if he falls to the early second round, it may make sense to buy a pick in the low 30s to take a flyer on him.

Final verdict:

Jeff Withey is a terrific collegiate athlete who projects to be, at best, a mediocre NBA player. He’s the best shot-blocking center in this draft, but significant questions remain how he will adjust to the intensity of the NBA. He could be a steal in the early second round, but a “meh” pick at 22.