Georges Niang was one of the most exciting players to watch in the NBA G League this past season. Standing at 6’8 and 231 pounds, the former Iowa State star entertained fans due to his knack as the G League’s finest ‘Swiss Army Knife”. During his time with the Salt Lake City and Santa Cruz Warriors last season season, Niang demonstrated a knack as a mid-range/perimeter shooter, facilitator, post-up threat, offensive rebounder and on-ball driver.
After a solid first two months of the season, where he averaged 19.1 points, 4.6 assists, 6.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals on 56% from the field and 45% from beyond the arc on 4.6 perimeter shots per game for Santa Cruz, he was signed to a two-way deal by the Utah Jazz on January 14th. Due to the combination of Utah’s depth and constraints of that two-way deal, he spent most of his time in the G League with the Salt Lake City Stars.
Niang didn’t seem to mind that move at all as his already terrific production improved when he landed in Salt Lake City. In 15 games with the team, he averaged 22 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists on 61% from the field and 53% from beyond the arc on 4.9 perimeter attempts per game. Niang’s combination of great volume and jaw-dropping efficiency pushed the Salt Lake City Stars to go 11-4 during his time with the team.
A few months after the G League season ended, Niang was awarded for his great play as the Utah Jazz extended him a qualifying offer, which allowed the 6’8 forward to become a restricted free agent. As the 25-year-old forward waits to see where he’ll play in 2018-19, he’s currently able to showcase his skills in Utah Summer League, where Niang is part of the Jazz’s roster.
In his first two Summer League games, Niang is playing at the same level that he was at when he was with Santa Cruz and Salt Lake City. Niang’s currently averaging 17.5 points, 7 rebounds, 2.5 assists on 60% from the field and 44% from beyond the arc on 4.5 perimeter attempts per game. He’s done a great job of bringing that great versatility over to Summer League, as he shows himself as a great player for guards to work with in pick-and-roll or pick-and-pops.
Although he isn’t the most explosive or athletic player in the world, Niang still shines as a roll man due to quick feet and a solid basketball IQ that allows him to know the correct pace to go when he’s working his way to the rim. Niang’s strong 215 pound frame counteracts his lack of explosiveness as he can just fight to the rim and be able to score around contact. If he doesn’t decide to drive into a big, Niang can throw up a pretty floater.
Meanwhile, his potential as a pick-and-pop threat should be easily apparent from how 3-point percentages from this past season. Although his shooting form isn’t the most fluid, you can’t complain since it allowed him to shoot 46% from beyond the arc during this past G League season.
When he’s not shooting or rolling to the paint, Niang can facilitate when he’s stationed at the top of the key as he can use his 6’8 frame to see over the court and spot an teammate. That ability has been evident during Summer League as he’s made a few connections with former Iowa State and SLC Stars teammate Naz Mitrou-Long.
Although Niang still has a lot of Summer League ahead of him in both Utah and Las Vegas, I think it’s becoming clear that he’s too good to play against this competition. Is that to be expected from a 3rd year pro? Absolutely. Niang has grown to this point where he looks like this wily veteran that is extremely calculated with everything he does on the court. From deciding whether to drive-and-dish or put up a floater rather than go right to the rim, his basketball IQ is at a high level. Alongside that, his tremendous versatility allows Niang to be an unpredictable threat as he can shine in a variety of ways.
Niang currently stands as a restricted free agent with Utah which means that the Jazz can match an offer that one of the 29 other NBA teams might send to them. Although that situation is currently quiet, it could definitely heat up as Summer League goes on.
Because as NBA GMs get a chance to watch him play, there’s a strong chance that some of them will start to understand that Niang has the tools to be a great role player in the modern-day NBA. What he lacks in athleticism, the 6’8 forward makes up for it in an excellent perimeter stroke, solid passing vision and other tools that allow him to be a versatile offensive threat. With those tools, he actually the makeup to be a solid role player in the vein current Jazz forward Joe Ingles
So while his NBA status may currently be in question, I’m confident that we’ll be seeing Georges Niang on an NBA court in 2018-19.