Philadelphia 76ers: Don’t discount the addition of Georges Niang

Last season the Philadelphia’s 76ers paid a little over $3.48 million – plus four second-round picks – for a former Utah Jazz player named George.

That didn’t go well.

But this year, they learned from their mistakes. This year the Philadelphia 76ers paid only $3.3 million for a former Utah Jazz player named Georges, plural, and it should turn out a heck of a lot better.

While he may not be the marquee signee many a Philly fan hoped would fall in the Sixers’ lap, Georges Niang could still play a key role for Doc Rivers‘ club this fall regardless of who is running the point come opening night.

The Philadelphia 76ers have been looking for a player like Georges Niang.

Mike Scott. Mike Muscala. Wilson Chandler.

What do all these players have in common? Well, all three were targeted by the Philadelphia 76ers with the express purpose of becoming frontcourt contributors, but for one reason or another, it never quite worked out.

Georges Niang, to his credit, cleared that bar during his run in Utah, albeit in abbreviated action, and looks primed to grow into an even bigger role this fall.

Measuring in at 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, Niang came to the NBA as a second-round pick out of Iowa State, where he earned a bit of a reputation for being a jack of all trades over his four-season tenure in Ames. Niang could score, pass, rebound, and even shoot 3s, but his lack of traditional athleticism left some talent evaluators wondering how his game would translate to the NBA-level.

But hey, as Niang put it himself in an interview with KSL New Radio, “Listen, guys, I’m not a Ferrari. Like you guys. I need a couple (of) laps around the block to get to full speed like a minivan.”

Fun fact: Niang has another nickname, Fat Curry, but I’m not sure how that one came to be.

After a 23 game cup of coffee in Indiana – another one of George Hill’s former teams, I might add – Niang ended up in Utah, where he slowly worked his way up from 3.6 minutes in 2017-18 to 16 minutes in 2020-21 where he averaged 6.9 points and 2.4 rebounds. As a fifth-year pro, Niang made an average of 42.5 percent of his 4.1 3 point attempts per game and even recorded a game back in February where he drained 7-7 3 pointers for 21 points in only 16 minutes of action.

Will Niang be able to further his on-court progression as he turns in his colorful collection of Utah jerseys for all-American red, white, and blues? Let’s hope so because the Philadelphia 76ers desperately need a player with his set of skills.

Despite a desperate need for frontcourt minutes down the stretch, the Sixers largely relied on frontcourt playoff rotations sans any sort of legitimate forward contributor coming off the bench, with only Dwight Howard recording minutes in every single game versus Washington and Atlanta. While Scott did get into five of the team’s playoff contests, he only averaged a measly 6.8 minutes of action in each and averaged 1.2 points for his efforts.

Considering you get two points from a standard NBA shot and Scott didn’t take a single free throw, that is very, very, very not good.

In Niang, the Sixers have a versatile combo forward who could play the four next to players like Matisse Thybulle and Danny Green or at the three if paired up with a player like Tobias Harris. He’s a plus rebounder, which the Sixers bench really didn’t have sans Howard, and could even help to bolster the team’s switching frontcourt defensive efforts if Ben Simmons is somehow gone for one reason or another.

And the best part? Niang is beyond excited to play next to Joel Embiid, as he gets that when the Big Fella is cooking in the paint, everyone else’s night gets a whole lot easier.

Will it work? Will Georges Niang become a double-digit scorer in 24 minutes of action a night while maintaining his shooting efficiency from 2020-21? Only time will tell, but considering the team’s reserve frontcourt woes in the post-Ersan Ilyasova-era, getting a 28-year-old 3-and-D forward for a whole lot less than George Hill was due in 2021-22 is a victory. A minor victory? Perhaps, but a victory nonetheless.