Given where the NBA world sits right now, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski has been understandably quiet. After all, it is late August. Even so, while this news may not constitute what has been endearingly dubbed a Woj bomb, the following Utah Jazz-related nugget just came out:
Yahoo Sources: Free agent 7-footer Jeff Withey agrees to deal with the Utah Jazz. http://t.co/IePMgxGAl2
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) August 24, 2015
Jeff Withey, a 7-0, 235 lb center out of Kansas, becomes the latest addition to the Utah Jazz roster, and most likely fills out next month’s training camp roster. The move is a bit surprising, but it could also potentially be a shrewd 11th hour move. What does the big man bring to the Jazz mix and what are his chances?
Withey is a San Diego product, averaging a double-double in high school, along with a remarkable 7.3 BPG. Louisville was his first choice, but he changed his mind and opted for Arizona. Withey never saw the court for the Wildcats, as he transferred to Kansas in the wake of Lute Olson’s resignation. A four-year player with the Jayhawks, Withey’s teammates included NBA players Cole Aldrich, Xavier Henry, Markieff and Marcus Morris, Josh Selby, Thomas Robinson, Tyshawn Taylor and Ben McLemore. Withey did not see much playing time his first two seasons, but emerged as solid, yet unspectacular big man his junior and senior seasons.
His final campaign saw Withey tallying 13.7 PPG, 8.5 RPG and a whopping 3.9 BPG1. He played quite well within the Kansas offense, scoring efficiently and showing a solid touch from the free throw line. Naturally it was his defense, though, that was a major key for the Jayhawks. In 2012, he set the NCAA tournament record with 31 blocked shots. As a senior, he took home All-American and All-Big 12 honors and was unsurprisingly named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Withey made the NBA workout rounds, including a visit to Salt Lake City. Scouting reports loved his defensive skills and high energy play. Conversely, his age (23 at the time of the Draft), his need to bulk up and his limited offensive game factored against him. Withey ended up being selected with the 39th pick by the Portland Trail Blazers. A few weeks later, he was moved to the New Orleans Pelicans.
Withey spent his first two NBA seasons in the Bayou. Given the Pelicans’ depth — Anthony Davis, Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca — he did not get much time2. That said, his advanced numbers are extremely good for an end-of-the-bench big. For his career, Withey has a 15.9 PER, .583 TS%, .637 FTr and 5.9 BLK %3. With New Orleans re-signed the trio ahead of him in the rotation, it was easy to see that his services were no longer needed there.
Withey obviously has good size and gives Utah a third 7-foot center. Add in a 7-3 wingspan and decent mobility, and given that his contract is probably at the veteran minimum, this seems like an extremely low-risk, moderately solid-reward transaction4. He is clearly an insurance player, which is not a bad thing to have to bolster the front court, especially at this juncture of the summer. Among the remaining free agents, it is a bit surprising that he had not been plucked up by anyone.
Withey is capable of playing NBA defense. His length and anticipation are very good. He plays within the offense and does not try to do too much. He is reliant on his teammates setting him up, with 83.2% of his field goals being assisted. Withey can finish inside, but does not possess much of a jumper, or at least he has not demonstrated that at this level. He gets to the line at a high clip and can hit his free throws. Withey is an okay rebounder, but sometimes has difficulties with stronger opponents. He has added some muscle to his frame, however.
Should Withey stick, he would provide a contrasting look from the offensively-minded Tibor Pleiss. Combined with Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, he could add to an already formidable defensive front court. Withey has the chops to be a viable back-up big when needed, but can’t be asked for too much more. He comes across as a solid locker room guy and he seems genuinely excited to be suiting up for the Jazz.
— Jeff Withey (@JeffWithey) August 24, 2015
Things have certainly gotten more crowded the past few weeks. He will certainly add to the Jazz camp competition. There are a lot of hungry, scrappy players looking to prove they belong. For players on the bubble, such as Jack Cooley, Chris Johnson and Bryce Cotton, this should motivate them to step up5. Last summer, Utah traded some of their non-guaranteed players to Cleveland, to help the Cavs cut some salary and to pick up an asset. There are not too many teams in that situation, but a deal involving some of these players is not out of the realm of possibility. Watching how things shake out in October will be an intriguing story line. In short, while not a momentous move, bringing Withey aboard could be an underrated move going into training camp.