While there was not much turnover from the roster last year, one addition who will be looked at to make an impact is Georges Niang. Doc Rivers referred to Niang as the “silent pickup,” which he believes will help the team more than it has been recognized.
The Sixers have been in search of a stretch forward for quite some time. With Mike Scott not proving to be effective enough to play regular minutes, it hasn’t been since Ersan Ilyasova that the Sixers have had a legitimate stretch four. While he is a tad undersized at 6’7, there is hope that Georges Niang may finally be this guy.
Primed to become a fan favorite, “the Minivan” is coming off a career-high average of 6.9 points and 2.4 rebounds in his limited minutes of play. Headed into his 6th NBA season, Niang has shown growth each season and connected on three-pointers at a 42.5% rate last season.
When asked about his decision to come to the Sixers, Niang spoke about how a conversation with Doc Rivers was a primary reason that led to his decision to join the team. The Iowa State product preached his excitement to play alongside Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris. When specifically discussing playing next to Embiid, Niang talked about the double teams that he constantly demands, leading to open three-pointers that he could capitalize on. After being asked his expectations on his role this season, Niang put it:
“What’s on my mind is ‘How can I help this team and implement myself in a positive way?’ You know, to guard bigger guys or be a small ball five or be able to space the floor for other guys to have open lanes driving to the rim. I think those are the things I’m focusing on and how can I make this team better and create space on the offensive end but also be able to guard multiple positions on the defensive end.”
There is a lot to be excited about with Niang as he is another versatile piece and an objectively good shooter regardless of position. While it may seem a marginal improvement to upgrade at the power forward position, it is worth noting that Mike Scott started 12 games last season and played a very forgettable 16.7 minutes per game. The added shooting and increased production in these limited minutes are sure to produce results throughout the season.
With Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris held out of the first preseason game, Georges Niang was given the start at power forward. It was a fairly quiet showing for “the Minivan,” who ended with 5 points, 2 steals, a rebound, a block, and an assist in limited minutes. Even in the quiet effort, Niang flashed an intriguing skill set that will certainly become a factor this season.
As far as expectations for the year, Niang has done his best to keep things quiet. He believes he is ready to step into the pressure that comes with playing in Philly and recognizes that the results on the court mean much more than any statement he puts out or goal he sets. As Niang put it himself,
“I’m a northeast kid, so I think I really understand how the city of Philadelphia works… I could sit here and tell you what my expectations are, but Philadelphia fans don’t really care about that.”
It will be interesting to see Niang’s impact, and don’t be surprised if he quickly becomes a fan favorite.