Sixers Fan-Favorite Bench Piece Putting NBA on Notice, Questions Knicks’ Scheme

Georges Niang, Sixers

Getty Georges Niang #20 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts after making a three pointer during the fourth quarter of the game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on December 25, 2022 in New York City.

There were not high expectations when it was announced last summer that the Philadelphia 76ers inked Georges Niang to a two-year deal worth $6.76 million in total. The Jazz forward had never played more than 16 minutes per game and had not eclipsed 500 points in a season in his five-year career before Philadelphia. However, in just a season and a half, he has grown from a fan-favorite energy player to a vital piece of the team’s style of play. His unwavering willingness to shoot and career 43.8% three-point percentage make him a weapon as a floor spacer next to the Sixers stars. Niang has looked to have taken another stride forward in his production this season and the entire NBA is beginning to notice.

Niang’s Performance against Knicks

The 29-year-old has never been afraid of the spotlight and put this on display once again on Christmas Day. During the 119-112 victory over the Knicks, Niang tied with Shake Milton for the most minutes off the bench with 23. The Minivan finished with 16 points, two rebounds, and a block while being a team-high +16. He shot 6-11 from the field overall and connected on all four of his three-pointers in the fourth quarter.

Following the victory, he was asked about what led to this success and questioned the Knicks for giving him his shot. As he put it, “I don’t know why they were playing in a drop coverage. I probably haven’t seen that since college maybe, but they were putting two on James and that’s kind of where me and James have that two-man game that really, you know, flourishes. James found me, James does an incredible job of hitting me on the hands and making those passes and my job is to shoot the ball and I wasn’t gonna stop doing that.”

The chemistry he has alongside James Harden has been especially notable. The duo oftentimes runs pick-and-pop sets which force the defender to decide between doubling Harden (which allows the open three-pointer to Niang) or giving the switch the Sixers desire so the star guard can capitalize on the matchup. For years Sixers fans have been frustrated by the slow release or unwillingness to shoot from a variety of players. This is far from the case with Niang who seemingly needs just an inch of space to launch his perimeter shot.

Niang is One of the NBA’s Best Shooters?

He has already cemented himself as the most willing and effective three-point shooter on the Sixers roster, but Niang stacks up across the entire league as well. The 42.3% rate he is connecting on three-pointers this season ranks 16th in the NBA overall.

This is especially impressive considering the willingness he flashes. When looking at the per 36 numbers, Niang attempts 10.1 three-pointers for every 36 minutes he plays. This is the highest volume on the Sixers by a major margin with De’Anthony Melton next up with 7.5 long-range attempts per 36 minutes. These 10.1 attempts rank 10th in the NBA overall. Steph Curry is the only other player to be on this list with similar volume and production as he ranks first in both of these categories. Isaiah Joe (sigh) is the only other player within the top 10 for long-range attempts per 36 minutes to have a higher three-point percentage than Niang, at 44.8%, although the former Sixers sniper has a much smaller sample size.

Having role players who can maximize the Sixers’ superstars is vital to the team’s success and this is exactly what Niang does best. In the 160:36 game minutes that Niang is sharing the floor with Harden, the Sixers are outscoring teams by 23.9 points per 100 possessions. In the 253:50 game minutes that Niang is sharing the floor with Joel Embiid, the Sixers are outscoring opponents by 14.4 points per 100 possessions.

While he has some limitations defensively, he competes on this side of the floor on an every-play basis. The energy he brings is infectious and Niang is the first player on the Sixers ready to talk trash or get in a scrap. The Iowa State product has been a perfect fit for the Sixers and the city of Philadelphia as a whole. He has cemented a role within the rotation and will continue to be a key part of the team’s level of play moving forward.

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