Mike Scott solved no playoff problems for the Sixers last season.
Will Georges Niang be any different?
Niang, who’s about five years younger than Scott and signed a two-year, $6.7 million deal with the Sixers this offseason, is known primarily as a shooter. For certain college basketball fans, his do-everything, four-year career at Iowa State also might come to mind.
The marksman reputation is valid — Niang is at 40.4 percent from three-point range in the NBA — although it’s not Niang’s only notable quality, as the video above covers.
We’ll see exactly how Niang’s production compares to Scott’s, but it’s a good bet that he’ll be a touch more versatile offensively. While both players mostly fired from long distance last year (threes were 75 percent of Scott’s shot attempts and 73 percent of Niang’s, per Cleaning the Glass), that statistic doesn’t fully illustrate Niang’s game.
“Obviously shooting is the thing that I do well, but when shots get taken away, being able to get in the lane and create for others — and be a bigger body on defense," Niang said at his introductory press conference last month. “Obviously the four spot, you need some size in this league — so bringing size and versatility, being able to guard multiple positions. And creating when the shot isn’t there. I’m not a one-dimensional shooter. If those things are taken away, be able to create for other guys, to attract the defense over and get other guys open looks.”
Niang is capable in dribble handoffs, as a pick-and-popper, and as a driver and passer off of closeouts. He’s absolutely not an explosive athlete or a brilliant facilitator, but it’s nice that he can contribute in ways besides camping out and shooting when open.
To be clear, however, Niang will do a fair amount of biding his time in the corners. What’s difficult to know at the moment is who will conduct the action when he’s on the floor. The conventional wisdom during Ben Simmons’ time as a Sixer has been that maximizing the shooting around the 25-year-old is the optimal approach. Indeed, despite Scott’s unimpressive individual season, the Sixers outscored teams by 4.5 points per 100 possessions when Simmons and Scott shared the floor during the 2020-21 campaign. Standing behind the arc and having the willingness to shoot checked off two important boxes in Simmons lineups.
If the ongoing Simmons drama unfolds such that Tyrese Maxey and/or Shake Milton are the Sixers’ primary second-unit ball handlers, Niang’s shooting should still be valuable. And, given Andre Drummond’s old-school, interior-focused style, it borders on being a necessity.
Perhaps Niang, like Scott, will receive some small-ball center minutes, too. He said he's “more than willing to do that to help my team win."
For a player nicknamed the “Minivan,” not much time has to be spent on Niang’s defensive deficiencies. He’s worse as a pure athlete than the typical NBA player and must compensate by understanding his man’s tendencies and steering clear (pun intended) of mistakes like leaving his feet on pump fakes or losing track of his assignment off the ball.
The 28-year-old played in every one of Utah’s 83 games last season (counting the playoffs), which indicates the trust he gained from Jazz head coach Quin Snyder. Doc Rivers also likes reliable veterans — which head coach doesn't? — and that’s a role Niang should be able to fill for the Sixers.