4 players fighting for their future with 76ers

Paul Reed, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Paul Reed, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images) /

Can the 76ers trust Georges Niang in the playoffs?

Georges Niang has mounted consecutive career-best seasons in Philadelphia. He’s an extremely useful regular season weapon: the kind of freewheeling, endlessly confident shooter who can stress the defense in tandem with Embiid’s interior gravity and Harden’s consistent rim pressure.

But, can Niang survive on the biggest stage? We have seen Niang struggle time and time again against the NBA’s truly elite teams. Boston and Milwaukee, for example, have little trouble mismatch-hunting for Niang. He was played off the court last postseason, he has been played off the court in several recent outings, and the general expectation is that he will be played off the court again in the 2023 ‘offs.

So, what does that mean for the impending free agent? The Sixers signed him an affordable two-year, $6.7 million contract a couple summers ago. He has objectively surpassed that value in the regular season, but it all feels moot if he’s completely unreliable in Philly’s biggest games.

The Sixers could probably re-sign Niang for similar value in the offseason and get another strong regular season out of him. But the Sixers’ chief defensive liability is already 29 years old. His feet won’t get quicker, his rebounding won’t get better, and opposing offenses will continue to eagerly seek him out despite the Sixers’ best efforts to hide him on the defensive end.

Philly will have to get smart with how they spend money next summer. Losing Niang for nothing would hurt. On top of the shooting, he’s a useful locker room presence whose trash-talking is a vastly underappreciated element of this group. The Sixers need fighters and Niang is as scrappy and they come. But, another postseason flameout would cast a dark shadow over his future with the team, if that future even exists.