Philadelphia 76ers: Georges Niang is more specialist than 3-and-D forward

Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /

Georges Niang is a specialist.

While occasionally the pride of Iowa State will elevate his game and take over a quarter or even a game for the Philadelphia 76ers, expecting such a performance out of the 28-year-old Bay Stater is a fool’s errand. No, the reason Daryl Morey gave Niang a two-year contract worth $6.7 million is because he can hit 3 point shots at a high clip on good efficiency without having to dribble, drive, or do too much on the offensive end of the court.

When those shots go in, Niang’s life gets a whole heck of a lot easier, but when they don’t, his defensive limitations, when coupled with a newfound spot in Doc Rivers’ closing lineup, can leave many to question his game.

Is Niang a burgeoning star? No, but when you accept him for what he is and move past what he isn’t, it becomes a whole lot easier to appreciate the “Minivan’s” impact on the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Philadelphia 76ers need to find the right rotation spot for Georges Niang.

In a perfect world, Danny Green would be the Philadelphia 76ers’ sixth man.

In a perfect world, Philly’s $10 million man would serve as the perfect end-of-game 3-and-D small forward capable of hitting open looks and keeping up with his man as the game slows down and every possession matters just a little bit more.

Unfortunately, Green just isn’t that player; not right now anyway.

Whether due to injury, illness, or the natural breakdown of time, Green’s season has sputtered along at the pace of Broad Street at rush hour, with seven games on, three games off, four games in, four games out, and then a pair of longer stretches interrupted with injuries to his ankle and then finger. If Green can recapture his footing and his production from last season, it’ll go a long way in giving the Sixers a lift off the bench and an answer in their end-of-game lineup.

But until that day comes, the Sixers will need to figure out a better plan for the final two minutes of regulation in a close game, as the starters-plus-Georges Niang lineup just hasn’t worked as well as Doc Rivers may have hoped.

Though the sample size is notably smaller, 179 with Thybulle versus 37 with Niang, the Sixers’ starting lineup has a Net Rating that’s 10.4 higher than their current closing lineup, with a much higher defensive rating and a slightly higher offensive rating. Now how, you may ask, could this be considering Matisse Thybulle‘s struggles as a shooter? Well, since James Harden made his way to South Philly, his offensive oeuvre has expanded by leaps and bounds, with his points, blocks, rebounds, field goal percentage, and 3 point shooting percentage all well over his season average.

Yes, you read that correctly, Thybulle is actually shooting 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3, and 91.7 percent on 5.0, 2.1, and 1.0 attempts per game since Harden came to town. Again, the sample size is small, but if he can keep that level of production going and score in double-digits every other game more-or-less, the Sixers might not need to opt for floor spacing over defense at the end of games or burn timeouts in offense-for-defense swaps.

Now mind you, just because Thybulle has turned in better minutes than Niang alongside Harden, Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey, and Joel Embiid doesn’t mean he’s a poor performer or should be shipped to the rotational shadow realm with Furkan Korkmaz, Charlie Brown Jr., and Charles Bassey. Despite having the worst plus-minus of any player in the Sixers-Raptors game regardless of team, Niang still finished fifth on the team in points ahead of Harris, Gree, DeAndre Jordan, Paul Reed, and Shake Milton and kept Philly’s offense alive when the starting lineup finally exited the court. If Doc can find a lineup that helps to hide Niang’s defense, maybe alongside Thybulle, or in a more creative rotation that he will totally consider, like having Paul Reed and Paul Millsap fill out the frontcourt, the “Minivan” could thrive as a supersized J.J. Redick clone.

Considering the current composition of the team, it might be wise for the Sixers to find the best way to maximize what they have instead of trying to pretend their issues don’t exist.

Next. Doc Rivers needs to move on from DeAndre Jordan. dark

Of the lineups in the NBA with at least 170 minutes of action, the Philadelphia 76ers’ current starting five ranks second in Net Rating at 23.8. They have the best overall offensive rating, the seventh-best defensive rating, and have seemingly put it all together in a way few expected when the lineup was initially announced on February 25th. While that’s all well and good, Doc Rivers and company now need to settle on a few secondary lineups that are similarly effective, as players like Georges Niang are solid cogs come playoff time, but only if they are deployed in a way that highlights their strengths and minimizes the holes in their games.