Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Presence in the Paint: A Season Review of Jeff Withey

Over the next week plus Pelican Debrief will be rolling out season reviews of all the players that at one point or another in the 2013-2014 season could be classified as rotation players. First we took a look at Luke Babbitt, then Darius Miller and today it is Jeff Withey’s turn.

Stats: 58 games played (4 starts), 11.8 mpg, 3.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.9 bpg, 0.3 spg

Highlight: April 9th against the Suns Withey went for 17 points on 7/10 shooting against the Phoenix Suns while grabbing two rebounds, dishing out three assists and blocking a shot.

The good: 6.1 block percentage. Withey’s per game blocked shots look low but in reality his shot blocking transferred remarkably well from the college to pro level. In fact if he played enough minutes to qualify Withey would have ranked third in the league in block percentage behind only Serge Ibaka and Withey’s teammate Anthony Davis.

The bad: 56.5 FG% from 0-3 feet. Withey understood his limitations well and took basically 66 percent of his shot attempts from 0-3 feet, which is good. What isn’t so good is the fact that he shot just 56.5 percent in those situations.

The Ugly: 13.1. It comes in limited shot attempt but 13.1 percent of the time Withey shot the ball this season he had his shot sent away (17 times being blocked in 129 FGA’s). Part of the issue is the strength disadvantage that Withey had to deal with when he played as despite being seven-foot he is on the low side of center weight at 235 pounds. Bulking up should help this issue a bit going forward.


When Jeff Withey was acquired by the Pelican’s in a trade the Tyreke Evans trade there was hope that eventually he would develop into a player that could thrive at center next to Anthony Davis after a college career that ended with him being named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and setting the Big 12 career blocked shots record. Thanks to some concerns about his age and lack of prototypical center strength.

His rookie season got off to a slow start. After playing 18 minutes in the eighth game of the season against the Lakers, Withey didn’t hit double-digit minutes again until January 18th which started a streak of double-digit minutes in five of six games to end January. Then February came and Withey recorded more games with zero minutes than he did with double-digit minutes. March brought more inconsistent minutes before ended the season by playing 18 minutes or more in seven of eight games in April.

When Withey played things were about what was expected with him coming out of college. Offensively he was raw but actually did a pretty good job of finishing out of the pick-and-roll and as a cutter, his two highest percentage of offensive play types used. As a roll man in the pick-and-roll, Withey shot 48.3 percent and the Pelicans scored 56.1 percent of the time offensive possessions end that way. When plays ended with Withey as a cutter meanwhile he shot 66.7 percent and the Pelicans scored 71.2 percent of the time. Neither play was used particularly often (they combined for just 93 total plays) but it was a nice sign. Where Withey struggled on offense was finishing the offensive rebound chances he got, as he shot just 33.3 percent and the Pelicans scored on just 41.9 percent of those 31 opportunities. Again the sample size was small but it was in those types of plays that Withey’s lack of strength showed as they shots often came in traffic. (Stats in this paragraph courtesy of

Where the rookie really shined though was on defense. With Withey on the floor the Pelicans were 5.1 points per 100 possessions better defensively and opposing centers posted just a 12.7 PER according to Withey has a great understanding of team defensive concepts and his 7-3 wingspan allowed him to utilize his being in the right spot to make life tough for offensive players. Via SportsVu tracking data opponents shot just 42.9 percent at the rim with Withey in the area. The only part of defense that Withey really struggled with was rebounding as he grabbed just 12.7 percent of available rebounds when he was on the floor.

What it leads to is hope going forward. If Withey can add some functional strength while remaining as mobile as he is it could help him grabbing the misses he helps create and finish better at the rim. If he is able to do those two things and continue the to be the defensive presence that he has his over his last few years of playing basketball the Pelicans very well may have found the center they seek to play with Anthony Davis long-term.

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