The Sixers seem to have struck gold in free agency with the addition of Georges Niang, who is proving to be much more than a Mike Scott replacement.
Heading into this offseason, Daryl Morey was extremely handcuffed by the salary cap in the roster moves he was able to make. Without the capital to add a traditional “impact free-agent,” Morey was forced to dig into the margins and find value toward the bottom end of the roster.
While GMs are almost entirely judged on the results of the team, Morey deserves a ton of credit for his ability to improve the roster without breaking the bank. Perhaps the best evidence of this was the addition of Georges Niang.
The Sixers bench has been starved of a legitimate stretch big for several years. Excluding the 27 game stretch that Mike Scott caught fire when he first arrived, the Sixers have not a legitimate backup to Tobias Harris during his time with the Sixers. While Scott was a great locker-room and “Philly guy,” he frankly was not good enough to be a rotational piece on a contending team, and there is a reason he remains unsigned by any team this year.
Originally looked at as a Mike Scott replacement, the Sixers signed Georges Niang to a two-year $6.7 million deal this past offseason. This was a cap maneuver that used the Sixers’ non-taxpayer mid-level exception and has proved an effective technique regarding the salary cap gymnastics. While the sample size is still quite small, it has become quite clear that there is much more to Niang’s game than anyone seemingly expected.
Through his first seven games with the Sixers, Niang has averaged 19.9 minutes and produced 10.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists. Even more impressive has been his willingness to seek out three-point attempts and stretch the floor for the Sixers.
Niang currently is averaging 5.3 three-point attempts, which is tied with Seth Curry for most on the Sixers roster. The 28-year-old is connecting on these attempts at a 43.2% rate which trails just Seth Curry and Danny Green for best percentage on the Sixers.
These numbers are even more impressive when factoring in the impact he has made in limited minutes. On a per 36 minutes scale, which evens the playing field for minutes across all players, Niang averages 9.6 three-point attempts. This is the most on the Sixers roster and is tied for 19th in the NBA. Ranking higher than guys like Davis Bertans, Tyler Herro, James Harden, Bradley Beal, and many others, the gravity that Niang has earned has proved to be effective.
Now in his sixth year in the NBA, the opportunity that Georges Niang has been given with the Sixers is not one he is taking lightly. This season is the best chance at regular minutes he has received, and the man affectionately referred to as “The Minivan” seems determined to make the most of it.
His versatility to be able to play both forward positions, as well as the small-ball center, has increased the Sixers’ versatility when looking at potential lineups. The Sixers bench deserves a great amount of credit for their impact on the Sixers’ positive start, and Georges Niang has been an extremely valuable part of this.
Looking ahead, there is an even greater opportunity on the table for the rising fan favorite. Tobias Harris was pulled prior to the Trail Blazers game and has been ruled out for tonight’s matchup due to COVID health and safety protocols and will likely miss several more games.
Danny Green also picked up a hamstring injury, and there has not yet been an expected timetable for his return. With the Sixers in need of others to pick up the shooting that will be missing from these two, Georges Niang is a prime candidate to see an extended role. There is still plenty of time left in the season, but it is clear that the Minivan is just getting warmed up.