In the opening days of the G League season, one prospect that really caught my eye was 6’8 forward Georges Niang. At the time, he was starting his run in the league with the Santa Cruz Warriors, where he was just a part of an extremely talented core of prospects. Although Niang definitely wasn’t a slouch, as he had a great run with Iowa State and spent the prior year with the Indiana Pacers, he was still overlooked on a team that featured Quinn Cook, Damian Jones, Michael Gbinijie and James Southerland.
Despite initially being looked at as a possible outcast within a solid team, Niang immediately showed the world that he still stands as an NBA prospect. That status was set in stone when he averaged 18.6 points, 6.7 assists and 5.4 rebounds on 56% from the field and 51% from beyond the arc during the month of November.
Sure, Niang’s perimeter efficiency didn’t stay at that astronomical rate for long, as he just shot 33% from beyond the arc in January, but he was still able to maintain his status as one of the best forwards in the G League. The elite status was maintained due to the incredible offensive versatility that he exhibits an ability to score in a variety of ways. In addition to his perimeter shooting, Niang has success as an on-ball driver, low-post from the left block, offensive rebound and mid-range jumpers.
With the help of Niang, the Warriors were able to enter the 2018 G League Showcase with a 17-10 record, which placed as one of the best teams in the league. That record improved during their first Showcase game as they were barely able to get past the Grand Rapids Drive with a 94-92 victory. Niang had a lot of impact in that victory he put up 19 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists on 8-14 from the field and 2-4 from beyond the arc.
Following the victory over Grand Rapids, it appeared that Niang and the Warriors were able to maintain their position as an elite G League squad. Unbeknownst to most fans, that game would be the last time he’d be suiting up with the Warriors. Just a few days after that win against Grand Rapids, the Jazz announced they signed Niang to a two-way deal, which abruptly ended his run with Santa Cruz and moved him to the Salt Lake City Stars.
Obviously, this move was an upgrade for the forward as he’d get paid a lot more money on that two-way deal while also getting a chance at playing in the NBA with the Jazz. However, Niang would be moving from an elite team in the Warriors to a Stars club that stood at 4-24 when the move was made.
As soon as the 6’6 forward stepped foot in the SLC, those past woes seemed to immediately vanish. With Niang leading the way alongside fellow Jazz two-way player Erik McCree and rookie guard Naz Long, the Stars have suddenly become hottest teams in the league. Since Niang joined the team, the Stars have gone 7-3 and have seen their record improve to 11-27. Sure, that still places them as the worst team in the G League but they’ve showed this new kind of on-court cohesiveness. Just over their last three games, the Stars have pulled off consecutive wins of possible Western Conference playoff teams in the RGV Vipers, Santa Cruz Warriors and Texas Legends.
Again, that success was due to the collective play of the entire Stars team. However, the play of Niang was a significant factor in Salt Lake City’s great play as he’s just been the kind of player that analytically-minded basketball fans drool over. In his ten games with the team, Niang has averaged 20.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game on 61% from the field and 54% from beyond the arc on 4.8 perimeter attempts per game. In addition to that, he’s been able to maintain an excellent 72% True Shooting Percentage
Yes. those numbers are absolutely real. You can go to this RealGM page and look at it with your own eyeballs.
Of course, those numbers aren’t going to stay as outrageously phenomenal for so long since Niang is very likely going to have a few bad games between now and the end of the season. But even when those likely rough stretches do happen, I hope nobody forgets how much his game has elevated during this season. Although he’s always been a solid player, the fact that he’s been able to shoot 45% from beyond the arc is something that even his biggest fan couldn’t imagine.
While Niang still struggles with being able to work an opponent down due to lack of great handles and quickness he stands as one of the more reliable offensive weapons that I’ve ever seen play in the G League. In addition to the aforementioned perimeter shooting, he can get it done in the low-post, floater and mid-range jumper. Although he still might have some flaws, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Georges Niang be able to translate his great offensive skill set to the NBA with the Utah Jazz.