Over the next few weeks, we’ll be profiling every player currently on the Sixers’ roster ahead of training camp, which begins on Sept. 27.
Contract status: Under contract through 2022-23 season for a salary of $3,465,000
Since rolling into Philly in free agency last summer, the Minivan, a.k.a. Georges Niang, has provided some tremendous value for this Sixers team.
Brought in on a team-friendly deal following a four-year stint in Utah, Niang stepped into a significant role off the bench for the Sixers in 2021-22. Joining a reserve unit in need of a boost on offense, Niang more than delivered. Across 76 regular season games, he logged 9.2 points per game and shot 40.3 percent from three-point range on 5.1 attempts per game. Niang’s quick trigger from deep, along with the energy and leadership he provided to the second unit, made him an invaluable piece to this team’s success last season and one of the better free agent signings of 2021.
Adequate floor spacing will always be a top priority for a Joel Embiid-led team, and Niang provided immense worth in that department. He converted on 40.1 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes this past season, also making 42.5 percent of his non-corner threes, good for third-best in the league. With Embiid a virtual lock to get extra attention anytime he has the ball in hands, ensuring he’s surrounded by competent outside threats is mandatory. Niang showed himself to be every bit of reliable in that regard.
Like many of his teammates, Niang’s play on the offensive end was only elevated by the arrival of James Harden after the trade deadline. The duo quickly developed some legitimate pick-and-pop synergy. According to NBA CourtOptix, Sixers possessions that featured Harden as the ball-handler and Niang as the screener resulted in 1.23 points per possession on 5.7 screens per game. Playing well alongside Harden isn’t exactly difficult, but Niang proved to be a particularly seamless fit next to him.
However, come playoff time, the results were a bit of a mixed bag for Niang. In the Sixers’ opening round matchup against the Toronto Raptors, he shot a sizzling 66.7 percent from three-point range. However, his shot completely vanished in the next round against the Miami Heat, converting on just 16 percent of his attempted threes. Additionally, Niang’s deficiencies as a defender, namely his lack of lateral quickness and relative ineffectiveness as a rim protector, began to show. Those struggles were only exacerbated by a knee injury that bothered him throughout the majority of the playoffs. Suffice it to say, it was a disappointing end to what had truly been a very good season all around for Niang.
Season outlook: Although his spot on the roster is secure barring a trade or some other unforeseen circumstances, Niang’s playing time could very likely take a significant hit this upcoming season. The arrivals of P.J. Tucker, Danuel House, De’Anthony Melton and Montrezl Harrell ensure that there will be a tough battle for consistent minutes across the board. The Tucker signing, in particular, will probably see Niang get knocked down a peg on the depth chart.
When comparing the two, Tucker is far and away the better option at the four than Niang. Not only does he provide consistent three-point shooting, but he also excels as a rebounder and provides the tough, multi-positional defense this team lacked. The latter two skills are things Niang especially struggled with down the stretch of last season. Given those realities, it’s more than fair to assume that Tucker will get a lion’s share of the minutes that had previously been Niang’s going forward.
However, that’s not to say that Niang doesn’t still have value. The jolt he can provide to this team’s offense when needed is legitimate. Even if it’s in smaller bursts, Niang should still give this Sixers team some solid production. As everyone knows, you can never have enough shooting on your roster these days, and Niang is clearly capable of supplying that on any given night.