In a somewhat surprise signing this offseason, the Sixers inked Georges Niang to a two-year $6.7 million deal. The man nicknamed “The Minivan” was given his biggest opportunity in the NBA as he had never averaged more than 16 minutes per game before this season. While his game certainly still has some limitations, Niang has flourished in the expanded role and is proving to be a key part of the Sixers’ second unit.
How Niang Fits
The Sixers have been starved for a backup power forward for several years. Outside of a brief hot streak from Mike Scott, the Sixers have not had a reliable backup since the Dario Saric and Ersan Ilyasova days. This was a large reason for Tobias Harris leading the Sixers in minutes last season, as the team simply did not have a proper backup at the four behind him.
At 6’7, Georges Niang is slightly undersized for a power forward but fits the exact play style that the Sixers needed. Surrounding Joel Embiid with shooters is essential to creating the spacing he needs to operate, and this is exactly what Niang does best. This willingness to shoot, and his effectiveness to knock down those shots, have been crucial to providing a spark of offense to the Sixers. The career 40.3% three-point shooter is tossing up a career-high 5.1 attempts per game so far this season. Even more impressive, Niang is getting up 7.9 three-point attempts per 36 minutes which is tied with Isaiah Joe for the highest rate on the Sixers.
Niang and Andre Drummond were the only Sixers bench players in the previous victory over the Nets to get on the scoresheet. The Minivan ended with 9 points and 4 rebounds on 3-6 shooting from beyond the arc. He also was a team-high +15 in the Nets victory. In the game before, Niang tied for second on the team in scoring with 19 points and knocking down 5 three-pointers in the process, which was vital to the victory over the Raptors. This shooting ability at the backup power forward spot has been very effective for the Sixers on a very cheap deal.
Much Needed Attitude
Off the court, Georges Niang is one of the most self-aware and regular dudes in the NBA. However, he is an absolute agitator on the court, and that is something the Sixers needed. It feels as if every game this season, Niang picks an opposing player, bench, or front-row fan to jaw at relentlessly. This attitude and spark that Niang brings on a nightly basis is seen in his play, and is extremely refreshing to see this type of motor.
While Joel Embiid certainly gets into his fair share of on-court quarrels, this is not necessarily the role you want your team’s star to have. Niang’s willingness to make hustle plays, scrap for loose balls, and just get in the mix is necessary on this current Sixers team. Despite being on the team for just half a season, it is also extremely clear that Niang checks the box as a “Philly Guy.”
Georges Niang is not the perfect basketball player, but he has been a tremendous addition to the Sixers. His quick trigger, high basketball IQ, and willingness to do the dirty work give him a clear lane as an impactful role player. The Sixers still have many problems to solve on their roster, which has resulted in Niang getting more minutes. The 28-year-old has capitalized on these minutes early on, so let’s hope the Minivan can continue to keep chugging along as the season progresses.