Jeff Withey: Phoenix Suns 2013 NBA Draft profile


Jeff Withey is hands down the second-best defensive big man in the draft. The seven-footer from Kansas averaged 3.8 blocks per game this season while anchoring the sixth best defense in the county. Other than Nerlens Noel, there is no one in the draft with better shot blocking skills and instincts than Withey. Just as impressive, he is excellent at contesting shots without fouling having averaged only 2.5 fouls per game while playing more than 30 minutes per night this season. In four years at Kansas, he fouled out of only three games. Jeff is also an excellent weak side and help defender with great defensive vision and positioning.

Offensively, Withey is less comfortable and versatile, but that doesn’t mean he is devoid of skill. Truthfully, despite his relative lack of elite athleticism, Withey might be the best finisher at the hoop in college basketball. He doesn’t sky when he jumps by any means, but he does elevate with great quickness, which is just as important when trying to finish in a crowd. He also has great mobility and works well in the pick and roll. He is most effective as a scorer when facing the hoop.

Question marks

Like most seven-foot draft prospects not named O’Neal or Bynum, Withey needs to add strength. Though he is bigger than yesterday’s profilee Cody Zeller, Withey is still too light to guard elite NBA big men in the post. It’s actually not clear how good a post defender he will be considering he didn’t see a lot of post play in college.

Withey won’t be able to step in and be an elite defender right away. The type of player he’ll see in the NBA is nothing like what he defended in college, and his game will have to evolve accordingly.

Like Zeller, Withey leaves a lot to be desired as a rebounder. For the year, he averaged only 8.5 rebounds per game which was well off the leader board in college hoops. And he didn’t help his limited offensive game by grabbing so few offensive boards (2.3 per contest.)

Offensively, he has some serious limitations. He is a mess with his back to the hoop. And he only attempted 14 jumpers this season. He will have to develop some sort of post game or mid-range jumper if he hopes to contribute for an NBA team. At this point he is very much a 1-dimensional player, and at 23 years old, it’s unclear how much he can improve.


With just a few weeks before the draft, Withey’s stock is a fixed commodity.  Unlike Zeller, who is trying to transition to a new position, Withey is who he is at this point. What will determine how high or low he goes in the draft will depend on whether or not teams will commit to developing him into a valuable defensive role player. Withey has the traits and the acumen to be an elite interior defender, but he will need to spend time translating his game to the NBA. For a team willing to make that commitment, he offers great value with very little risk. The only thing that might cause him to sink lower is teams reaching for riskier players with greater upside.

How would he fit with the Suns?

At this point, Withey is projected a bit high to be available at pick #30. But as the draft gets closer, it would be very easy to see Withey slip as higher upside players get a chance to wow scouts who haven’t seen much of them. Withey could definitely be in play when the Suns make their second first-round selection on draft day. If the Suns did select him, Withey would bring defensive intensity and shot blocking to a team that didn’t have much of either last season. It’s easy to see him being the defensive anchor of the second unit, which would be crucial for the Suns who frequently lost leads last season with the starters on the bench. Offensively, there’s just no way to predict what Withey will bring to the table other than put backs and dump-off dunks. I think a good comparison for him is another Kansas product, Nick Collison. If Withey can match Collison’s defensive intensity and develop some modicum of a set shot, he could have a long career in the NBA and be a valuable selection for the Suns.

And 1 … A second-rounder to consider

One player the Suns could take with their later second-round pick is Memphis’ Adonis Thomas. Thomas is a bit of a long shot as he is currently ranked #65 on Chad Ford’s Top 100. Coming out of high school, Thomas was projected as a lottery pick, but he suffered an injury during his freshman year and failed to regain that lofty projections this season. Thomas’ negatives are that he is a bit inconsistent offensively and a bit of small forward/power forward tweener. The positives are his incredible athleticism, high motor, strong body, and high basketball IQ. At 6’7” 232 lbs, Thomas is ready for an NBA jersey. Combine that size with a 40” vertical and high IQ, and he could definitely be molded into the steal of the draft. One of the Suns’ second round picks should definitely be spent on a high-upside guy with shooting issues. I think Thomas could very well be that guy. If the Suns call his name, Thomas will give Coach Hornacek a chance to prove himself as both a shot doctor and player developer.

It might not make a ton of sense at first blush for Thomas to be coming out this early with such a low projected draft slot, but he had a very smart, trustworthy coach in college (Josh Pastner) and a well-respected agent (Happy Walters) who is known for taking on raw, unheralded clients who go on to surprise and produce in the NBA. Thomas has a solid group advising him. Maybe they know something about him we don’t.

Tags: Draft Draft Profiles Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Analysis

  • AL

    Instead of drafting a big, Phoenix should go and trade for Bargnani. Trade Shannon Brown and a Forward for Bargnani. Maybe Barg can revive some of his career in Phoenix. He and Scola in the front court will make for lousy defense, but could make it up with some offense.

  • DBreezy

    No way McD eats that contract

  • ssholla

    I hope the Suns stop going after one dimensional players with no upside to get better on the other side of the ball.

  • Ty-Sun

    I would take Withey in a heartbeat over Bargnani. “Maybe Barg can revive some of his career in Phoenix” sounds too much like the rational for signing Beasley last year. The Suns don’t need any more reclamation projects on their roster.

    Withey might be a good selection at 30 but that also depends on what McD’s trade plans are. If he’s fairly sure to get a good trade deal for Gortat, then Withey could be on his radar. I’m sure McD has already spoken to O’Neal about his plans for the future and that will figure into his plans too. Haddadi also played well enough to be seriously considered keeping as the backup C. There is even the possibility that the Suns keep Gortat this year and try for a mid-season trade or just hope for a sign and trade deal at the end of the season.

    It all comes down to McD’s plan/vision for the future of the Suns. He may decide to take Len with the 5th pick which would mean that Gortat is definitely expendable.

    If Gortat is determined to leave and/or the Suns are determined to try to trade him, Len might be the best choice at 5. Then the Suns could pick up Goodwin, Hardaway Jr or Snell with the 30th pick and I wouldn’t be disappointed.

    The Suns are projected to take Oladipo with the 5th pick in this year’s draft. I’d love to have him in a Suns uni but that also makes the Suns 30th pick somewhat problematic. Draft Express has Phoenix taking Oladipo at 5 AND Goodwin at 30. That makes NO sense at all because they are both 2 guards. Reaching and drafting Muscala makes more sense than drafting both Oladipo and Goodwin.

    Withey probably won’t be on the board at 30. If the Suns do take Oladipo at 5 and don’t plan on keeping Gortat, O’Neal or Haddadi, then Muscala could be a good pick at 30.

  • http://none Keith

    Frye is probably our backup center. Though, depends what happens with Gortat. Frye might have to start. I would love to see Haddadi on the team, but he probably wont’ get many minutes. But Withey would be a great pick, as long as we got a wing with the first pick and not a big. And Bargnani??? Um, no!

  • dponce

    I like oladipo as much as the next guy for obvious reasons defence, athletic. But honestly I still would rather have Shabazz Muhammad! People are overlooking him and with the 5th pick its not a reach considering how the talent difference is marginal in this draft. As far as withey I love the pick been watching him since Kansas, he would be a great addition. Maybe we could look to trade a player and #30 pick to a team in the early 20s

  • Geo

    Does anyone know What happened to Gawni Lawal? Is he back from injury?

  • http://Ralph ralph

    the Suns need to take center @ 5. gortat will not be here next year and it takes 2 or3 years to get a young center good enough to be any good.

  • foreveris2long

    Bargnani, no way does a rebuilding team want an injury riddled over priced stretch four. I think McD is too smart for that. We need rebounders who can block shots and athletic wing players who can create their own shot. barg does none of that last I checked.

  • Scott

    I don’t have a problem with drafting both Oladipo and Goodwin. While both players could benefit from development time, if needed Oladipo could start, while I’d expect Goodwin to have his hands full playing backup SG.

    I project it will take the Suns 2 years to see what they have in Goodwin. By that time they should also have a sense of what they have in Oladipo. So at that point either the Suns keep both or trade away at least one of them.

    As for Withey, if he has a few years to gain weight and adjust to the NBA, I believe he projects to be basically about what Gortat is now. Which is not bad, but if the Suns can get a better center prospect, they should.

    As for Bargnani, my sense is that he’s done. Once his current contract runs out, I don’t think he’s impressed enough to stay in the NBA.

  • Scott

    Since – IIRC – I haven’t nominated a C yet to the Summer League team, I suggest Jordan Henriquez, who is 7′, 250 lbs, with a wingspan of 7′ 6″.

    He’s not ready for prime time, but I’ve a dearth of candidates for C in SL right now …

  • Ty-Sun

    On a different note, Grant Hill announced his retirement last night. I have no idea as to his plans for the future but if it involves coaching I hope the Suns at least give him some consideration.

  • foreveris2long

    With reports that a team in front of the Suns may draft Oladipo, who would you take with pick #5. I would take Len whether Oladipo is there or not. Then again there is speculation Cleveland may draft Len #1 if the pass on Noel.

  • Scott

    Boy, if Cleveland were to draft Len, and Oladipo was taken before #5, that would severely complicate matters.

  • foreveris2long

    Scott, there is report a few GMs have concern Noel may miss the entire season. I guess Orlando is considering Oladipo at #2. If Noel doesn’t go 1 or 2 then the Suns would likely be left to choose among McLemore, Porter and Noel if Len and Oladipo are gone.

  • DBreezy

    One of the bonuses of hiring Hornacek is that he’s likely to bring Sloan’s half court sets, the Flex and 1-4, here. I know that he talked about Cotton in terms of pushing the rock, but I’m betting he doesn’t use his sets much in the half court outside of S/R. I know in Cotton’s last stint he tried to use the Triangle, but I’m not sure what he used during Horny’s time. I have a vague recollection that it was motion sets because I think my high school coach said we were doing something similar at the time, but again I could be wrong.

    I looked at lot of the Flex and 1-4 stuff available on the web and it seems like a lot of players can fit in the system and it’s not as dependent on floor spacers or 3pt shots as a lot of what the Suns have run previously. It does seem to depend on having an offensive threat at the 1, in the post or preferably both something Utah has had in one fashion or another for years.

    The Suns may not get their hoped for pick, but they should be able to find someone who can fit into that system and work from there. It’s not like before where you could look at certain players like say a Hibbert and see that weren’t good fits for the system that D’Antoni or Gentry ran. Or that a ball dominant pg would suffer with Phil, a strong ISP guy would suffer with Brown or Karl, etc.

  • DBreezy


    I think the reported concern from CLE with Noel is about making the playoffs next season. Probably it’s because of who Gilbert is, but also because he doesn’t want to setup a situation where Kyrie even thinks about going elsewhere down the line. They’re pinging away after Love as well.

    It’s also been reported that John Wall seems to prefer Bennett. The thing is that McLemore isn’t taking the reigns in what has turned into a glorified interview process and not a total basketball eval draft. Tom Penn really jumped on him being a kid after listening to him at the combine and it seems he’s not alone there. There are reports that he’s more of a like to win guy vs a hate to lose kind of guy and some feeling that he isn’t going to push to reach his potential. That doesn’t describe Oladipo or Noel, so I don’t think either of them fall too far, but BMac theoretically at least fall to the Bobcats or Suns range.

    It’s still too early to say though as there just isn’t much separation on the court with most of these guys. A guy like McLemore could stay up there with a couple of great workouts or slide a bit more if he has some bad ones coupled with the maturity stuff. Guys like Zeller and Bazz will get shots to move back up where they were most of the year and a guy like McCollum can either show how rusty he is or that he truly does compare to flavor of the month Lillard. It’s hard to tell exactly what teams are looking for out of Porter and the rest are injured.

  • Scott

    I don’t see what’s wrong with Noel’s rehab process, as he was already walking around and doing shooting practice weeks ago. So I think he’ll be able to practice and play during the next season. But his basic issue – readiness based on weight – means it will be a few years before he can be expected to realistically compete in the paint in the NBA.

    He’s a couple inches taller than Warrick and 10 lbs lighter, and he needs to be in the paint to be effective.
    That’s not a good combination.

    On the plus side, he’ll have plenty of time (and incentive) to work on his jump shot. And if he’s on a team looking to wind up in the lottery, he could play a lot of minutes.

    As for McL, while he is athletic and a good shooter from 3, to me there doesn’t seem to be a lot of distance between him and some of the other shooters in this draft who project to go later, like Crabbe. While he has the IQ to shoot well and pass fairly well, he lacks playmaking ability. He cannot create for himself or others, his handle isn’t good enough to drive into traffic, and he also avoids contact.

    For me, Goodwin is still the top SG prospect in this draft, as he can create for himself and others, drive to the hoop, get fouled, and I believe his shot can be fixed probably fairly easily. I wouldn’t take him at #5, though, because his reputation in this draft is so low. My assumption is that the Suns could get him later.

    I don’t know who the Suns should take if both Len and Oladipo are off the board at #5. And for that matter, since teams have mentioned those two guys as being worth trading up for … if those guys are gone I’m not sure the Suns can trade down.

    Porter is probably the next most desired pick, but he’s not athletic, can’t create his own shot, and he lacks strength. It may be that Porter is a tweener, as his low lateral quickness may preclude him defending SF, yet he also lacks the weight and strength to defend at PF.

  • DBreezy

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Noel’s rehab, but Gilbert may be impatient enough to go another direction in the quest for a 2014 playoff berth.

  • Scott

    Well, as soon as it was announced Cleveland won the #1 pick, it was leaked that they were willing to trade out of it. ;)

    The Cavs have stripped their roster down to like 7 small contracts, the largest one being for Varejao at $8.4m. They’ve got room to sign free agents.

    Seeing as even the Cavs with their #1 are thinking maybe they want out of this draft, if I was McD, I’d be calling everyone in the first round to see if they want to sell their pick, and/or if they would like to take Gortat, Dudley, Tucker, Haddadi, Beasley (heh), or maybe even the Morris twins as part of a trade involving a pick.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing the Suns after draft day looking something like this …

    Pick #5 traded to Minnesota for picks #9 & #26
    Draft #9, Cody Zeller
    Trade Gortat to Portland for #10 & #39 picks
    Draft #10, Steven Adams
    Trade Tucker to Dallas for #13 pick
    Draft #13, Dennis Schroeder
    Trade Dudley to Atlanta for #17
    Draft #17, Gorgui Dieng
    Draft #26, Archie Goodwin
    Draft #30, Tony Snell
    Trade Brown for Tom Robinson and #34 pick
    Draft #34, Livio Jean-Charles
    Draft #39, Nemanja Nedovic
    Draft #57, Raul Neto

    Leaving a roster of:

    C – Haddadi, Adams, Dieng
    PF – Scola, Frye, Beasley, Markieff, Zeller
    SF – Marcus, Robinson, (Jean-Charles)
    SG – Snell, Goodwin, (Nedovic)
    PG – Dragic, Marshall, (Schroeder), (Neto)

    That’s 18 players, of which 4 can be left overseas, leaving 14. While I keep hoping he can be traded for Sullinger, Scola is more likely to be traded for a future pick, reducing the roster to 13. That leaves the Suns the potential to pick up two players from SL / training camp if they wish.

    During the season, the Suns may be able to trade the expiring contracts of Beasley, Haddadi, and/or the Morris brothers, if desired.

    And voila! The roster is headed for the 2014 lottery, but loaded with hope for a rebound.