Through two preseason games with Utah, Jazz coach Quin Snyder has been happy about it, too. Withey played just five minutes in Sunday's opener, but managed to grab three rebounds and go 7-for-8 from the free throw line in that time. Tuesday night, Withey grabbed five rebounds and blocked four shots. He also scored 11 points, including finishing a dunk late in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
Snyder praised the center's poise and attributed some of his early success to his willingness to come to Salt Lake about three weeks before the official start of training camp to work out with his new teammates.
"Being a new guy on the team, learning the language, learning the plays, getting to know everybody, that makes a huge difference, " Withey said.
With a contract that is only partially guaranteed, Withey is still facing a battle to make the Jazz's regular season roster.
There are 12 Jazzmen safe to call untouchable, barring some sort of trade or something unforeseen, leaving three spots up for grabs. Given Danté Exum's injury, Bryce Cotton seems a favorite to win a spot as one of the team's three healthy point guards. Elijah Millsap, who has impressed coaches with his tenacious defense and improved decision-making in training camp, seems like another early favorite to stick.
That would leave one spot open.
"Yeah. I mean, everybody is going to be playing their hardest trying to get that spot, " Withey said. "I know I'm going to be trying to get that spot."
The Jazz's corps of bigs grew over the summer, with rookie forward Trey Lyles and German center Tibor Pleiss joining a group that included Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert and Trevor Booker. That crowd might leave general manager Dennis Lindsey and the team's front office deciding whether to carry one more big, or use roster spot on another wing player.
So far, Withey has seen substantially more preseason playing time than his competition. Center Jack Cooley, who played 16 games for the Jazz last season, clocked three minutes of action on Tuesday. Chris Johnson, a wing who impressed with his play in summer league, has yet to check in. Forward Grant Jerrett, meanwhile, is guaranteed about $1 million this season, though a shoulder injury he suffered in summer league has kept him out of training camp action thus far, and makes his future in Utah uncertain at best.
Withey, a second-round pick out of Kansas in 2013, isn't known for being much of an offensive threat. But his length and shot blocking (he averages 2.6 per 36 minutes) provides him with a bonafide NBA skill. That's what he hopes to show Jazz coaches and front office executives over the next few weeks.
"I think it's a great fit for me. Defensively this team is very good. … This year, I think I can contribute a lot defensively, just blocking down the shots and holding down the paint when Rudy's not in the game. I see great potential for me here in the long run."