Sixers: 3 players who have exceeded expectations at quarter-season mark

Sixers logo (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Sixers logo (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Sixers who have exceeded expectations: Georges Niang

Georges Niang was big time for the Sixers last season. He quickly emerged as the team’s most reliable regular season reserve — a knockdown shooter with ineffable spunk and fan-favorite charisma. His role dissipated in the playoffs, however, when defensive limitations made Niang lineups borderline untenable. Going into the new season, after a busy summer of moves, many expected Niang to fade into the background.

‘Twas not to be. Niang has once again been central to the success of Philly’s second unit. He’s no longer “the guy” off the bench, but he’s playing plenty of important minutes as the Sixers’ most prolific floor-spacer. His quick trigger and team-first approach make the offense sing.

After stumbling slightly in the team’s first handful of games, Niang has been on an absolute heater of late. Even with the team’s primary playmakers sidelined — the players who typically spoon-feed Niang on the perimeter — the 29-year-old has found plenty of opportunities to punish defenses behind the 3-point line.

He’s even playing better defense. While nowhere close to elite, Niang has slimmed down and looked much more spry trying to defend in space. Will he be more tenable in the playoffs? We’ll see. Even if he’s only an 82-game player, however, it’s hard not to appreciate Niang given the affordable nature of his contract and his lovable attitude.