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Stay or Go: Will ‘The Minivan’ Georges Niang be back on the Sixers next year?

Georges Niang is mostly a spot-up shooter but he stepped up in Game 6 vs. Boston, giving Joel Embiid and co. a real shot at the Conference Finals. Will they find a way to bring Minivan back?

Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers - Game Six Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The Sixers have one major, major question ahead of them. Will James Harden be back or not? As far as we know, Harden and the team may already have a very keen sense as to the answer, but we’re left to simply speculate.

“James has a decision to make,” was how Philadelphia 76ers new head coach Nick Nurse put it during his opening Philadelphia presser. Once that decision is made clear, then the Sixers should have a better sense for how to tackle the rest of their roster.

Daryl Morey and Elton Brand will likely try and keep as many of their reserve free agents as they can. If Harden stays, the total team salary sums may be so high that it becomes more challenging to keep several other key free agents like Shake Milton, Jalen McDaniels, Georges Niang or Paul Reed.

In case you missed it, we recently wondered if Jalen McDaniels, should stay or go....

Today, we’ll focus on “The Minivan” or “Bang Bang” Georges Niang.

As of now, the team has no picks in the upcoming draft. So the way this free-agency period shakes out could prove pivotal toward their quest to win the 2023-2024 championship.

Continuing this series, we’ll evaluate Niang. Should Minivan stay or go?

Georges Niang, unrestricted free agent

2023 NBA Playoffs - Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Niang has now played two full seasons for Philadelphia. He’s been largely healthy, notching 76 and 78 games played in both of his Sixers seasons since the start of the 2021-2022 campaign. He’ll turn 30 years old in a couple of weeks.

Back in 2022, his role was arguably more vital to team success than it was this more recent season; that was in large part because Ben Simmons left that 2022 squad a max-level-salaried void that Doc Rivers needed to fill. Doc routinely turned to the former Jazz forward, and he was a very helpful regular season player.

In 2022, Niang averaged 9.2 points in 23 minutes per game. This past season, Niang scored 8.2 points in 19.4 minutes per game. He finished top 12 in the entire NBA in made catch-and-shoot triples with 146, on 41.2 percent.

In many cases, the only players to have drained more off the catch logged hundreds more minutes, per

He’s a threes-per-minute beast.

Both the points and minutes were down a shade because the team added P.J. Tucker and De’Anthony Melton last offseason, as Morey admittedly wanted to prioritize players who were plusses on both ends of the court, following the group’s disappointing playoff loss to the Heat.

Niang has never been known for his defense, giving him that “one-way specialist” label.

Still, this was Niang’s fifth consecutive season shooting over 40 percent from distance (40.1 percent this most recent year). He’s truly a sniper and doesn’t seem to really mind a hand in his face on tough closeouts from rangy defenders. The floor spacing and gravity he provides has been very valuable at times to stars like Joel Embiid or James Harden.

As the playoffs progressed, the Sixers’ rotation shrunk but Niang was (somewhat surprisingly) one of the names who maintained a key role. Against Boston, Niang wound up earning more burn than any of Danuel House Jr., Reed, McDaniels and Milton.

That’s something few of us likely would have predicted a couple of months ago.

The 6-foot-7 Iowa State product shot 9-for-20 from deep vs. the C’s that series. He even gave the Sixers a 69-65 lead on a corner trey late in the third quarter of the potential closeout Game 6 in Philly.

In arguably the biggest game of The Process era, Niang stepped up, when far too many others went ice cold. Tucker, Embiid, Harden, Melton and Harris shot a combined 2-of-20 from deep. P.J. drained the only two. Tyrese Maxey, 3-of-9, looked scorching hot by comparison. Morey wanted more two way players and got the defense, but there simply wasn’t enough shooting to win one more game.

Then in Game 7, Niang made a classless play, grabbing Jaylen Brown’s knee when Boston’s star wing fell into Philly’s bench.

Watching the Sixers playoffs, Niang’s defense held up better than expected, especially in Game 6.

But seeing the Miami Heat go on this crazy run, Erik Spoelstra’s shooters are a bit more multidimensional. Compared to Niang, Max Strus ($1.8M) is a better defender and movement shooter. Caleb Martin ($6.49M) is a better defender and transition slasher. Gabe Vincent ($1.8M) will remain one of the NBA’s best bargains until July.

So do the Sixers want to “pony up” for a one-dimensional spot-up player? Is it possible they could find someone better for less money like Miami has?

The cap picture

Unlike Paul Reed, Niang is an unrestricted free agent — which means the Sixers don’t have contract matching rights. He’s free to pursue deals with other teams, and can leave on his own accord; however, the Sixers do have his Early Bird rights, because he was on a two-year deal.

That means they can pay him 175 percent of his previous ($3.465M) salary, amounting to just over $6M. That could prove significant if they were trying to top a rival contending team’s Tax Payer’s Mid-level Exception ($5M) bid.

Early Bird contracts must be at least two years, no more than four, and may include 8 percent raises, annually.

But they can also offer Georges 105 percent of the league average salary from this past season as a starting point. The average salary last season was north of $10M, so if the Sixers truly want to secure Georges long-term, they could offer him a 2-4 year deal near $10M annually. But that starts to feel a bit steep, doesn’t it? Coach Nurse would basically need to value Niang far more than Doc ever did in order for that to be remotely justifiable.

(Maybe if Nurse felt he could turn Niang into a guy who flies around screens bombing triples on one end then draws a bunch of charges on the other? Not sure I can picture it.)

Pros and cons all focused around The Beard

2023 NBA Playoffs - Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The pros are pretty simple: Niang can flat out shoot, letting him go may not open up more cap space than a $2M minimum deal anyway. They could wind up asking themselves questions like: would we rather use Early Bird Rights and pay Niang $5-$6M or let him walk and replace him with a $2M player? If we prefer the latter, than who? Can we find (and develop) our own Gabe Vincent in time for the 2024 playoffs?

As an over-the-cap team, that’s the type of tricky calculus they’ll likely face.

The cons are more complex.

If Harden opts to remain a Sixer, then keeping Niang (depending on how much Harden signs for, and what happens regarding Reed, McDaniels, Milton’s future) will push the team’s payroll up near the new and dreaded (dum dum DUMMMM) second apron.

Crossing that new punitive threshold, with Harden in tow, would cost Morey the chance to utilize a ~$5M Tax Payer’s Mid Level exception. And it would also limit trade optionality, relegating the 76ers to deals where they can only take back 110 percent of salaries they ship out, instead of the default 125 percent.

Another potentially huge domino... the Tobias Harris trade market.

So if Harden stays, and Morey has predetermined, for example, he wants to match whatever Paul Reed gets offered on the open market, then keeping Niang (assuming he wanted to remain in Philly) may ultimately begin to feel too restrictive under the new CBA.

If Harden departs, it’s harder to say what the drawbacks of keeping Niang could be. They’d suddenly have a bunch more cash to spend on their own players.

This no Beard scenario raises other questions. Does Tyrese Maxey sign a five-year extension this offseason, or is that pushed back, keeping alive the idea of Morey conjuring up a max contract to offer a 2024 free agent?

Niang’s Early Bird rights necessitating a two-year deal potentially limits that dream.

Another consideration, sometimes a $4-10M deal makes for great salary matching fodder. But we also saw at the last trade deadline, that even a $5M deal like Furkan Korkmaz’s wasn’t moveable if rivals don’t value that player at a given price.

All in all, since it would be so difficult to avoid that second apron in the event Harden stays, it seems more likely the team finds a way to hang on to Georges should The Beard leave.

Hypothetically, if Harden left, the team could aim to offer all of Niang, Reed, Milton and McDaniels fair market deals and (assuming they accepted) still have enough for the larger, Non Tax Payer’s $12.2M mid level exception to splash around free agency with, while filling out the rest of their open roster using measly $2M minimum deals.

If they traded Harris into another team’s cap space, or in exchange for a couple salaries totaling less than his own ($39.27M), there would obviously be more wiggle room for Morey to play with.

There are a lot of moving parts here. But sadly, not a ton of paths where I’m like “wow, that would make the Sixers a whole lot better than last year!”

Long way of saying, it depends on a lot of stuff and it’s difficult to picture how this team is going to look. Who knows, maybe they’ll keep Niang and somehow land Fred VanVleet.

So, what’ll it be?


Should Georges Niang stay or go?

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  • 57%
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503 votes total Vote Now

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