At Philadelphia 76ers Media Day late last month, All-Star big man Joel Embiid spoke at length about wanting the team to enact a specific offensive change. “We used to launch threes and shoot a lot of them,” he said of his early days in Philly. “I feel like, since then, we haven’t taken advantage of it.”
Embiid is hoping to see a more potent long-range attack in 2021-22 and, apparently, free-agent signee Georges Niang is more than happy to do his part.
On Thursday, the Sixers bounced back in the second game of a home-and-home exhibition set with the Toronto Raptors, winning their opener at Wells Fargo Center, 125-113. Niang led the way for the Sixers, scoring 16 points in just 16 minutes off the bench.
Along the way, the former Utah Jazz forward fired off seven three-point shots, hitting four of them. Meanwhile, Philly knocked down 18 of their 37 attempts as a team from behind the arc for a 48.6% completion rate. Last year’s Sixers only attempted as many or more triples 11 times, and made 18-plus on just three occasions.
Niang Looks Like the Second Unit Stretch Option Philly Has Coveted
To say that the Sixers’ three-point attack last season was middling would be a generous statement. Although they shot a respectable 37.4% from deep as a team, their 29.8 attempts per 100 possessions was a bottom-three number league-wide. Meanwhile, Niang and the Jazz set records with their three-point shooting.
And while the Sixers probably aren’t going to burn up the nets at that level, Niang’s presence on the bench should help turn things in the right direction.
In ’20-21, Philly’s best stretch option on the second unit was Mike Scott, who only managed to connect on 34.2% of his three-point tries. He’s put up better numbers from that range at various junctures throughout his career but, even then, he has never managed the same level of prolonged three-point efficacy that Niang has.
Against Toronto, the Sixers were plus-19 with Niang on the floor. When he’s confident and connecting, that’s the kind of impact he could have for Philly in the year ahead. Defensively, things will be more hit and miss — Niang is undersized and his “Minivan” nickname is well-earned in evaluating his athleticism.
But if getting up more three-point shots is a goal, Niang — who has taken 67% of his shots from deep over his career — will help, and he’s better than most at hitting them.
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Niang Was Hyped for His Home Debut
Niang had the look of a man on a mission during the win over the Raptors. And he may have been energized in his performance by his new fans. During pre-game shootaround, the 28-year-old made it clear that he was hyped for the home debut.
“I’m super excited,” he said via Sixers Twitter. “Being an opponent coming into Philadelphia, it’s always been a tough crowd — there’s a bunch of hecklers in the crowd — so, I’m excited to have them on my side for once and be a part of the 76ers organization, officially getting my first game under my belt at Wells Fargo.”
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