Last year the Philadelphia 76ers could not play Georges Niang in the playoffs, as he simply could not keep up with the athletic wings he had to defend. Despite still being a key sub during the regular season, it’s the same situation this postseason.
There is an old saying attributed to Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
In his first season with the Sixers, the 6-foot-7 Niang proved to be a solid outside shooter for a Sixers squad desperate to provide spacing for Joel Embiid. However, facing two teams, Toronto and Miami, in the playoffs with a seemingly endless supply of fast and quick wings, Niang had trouble staying on the floor because, well, he is neither fast nor quick.
Look at the playing time and scoring average differences for Niang in 2021-22 between the regular season and playoffs:
Regular season: 22.8 minutes, 9.2 points average
Playoff playing time: 16.5 minutes, 4.6 points average
Niang seems like a great guy, and his three-point shooting prowess certainly comes in handy during the regular season, when teams do not game-plan as much for individual teams. However, come playoff time, there are simply times when he becomes too much of a defensive liability to be out on the floor.
General manager Daryl Morey, sort of, kind of, realized the limitations of Niang and went out and brought in two more athletic wings, Danuel House in the off-season and then he traded for Jalen McDaniels at the deadline. Both are decent three-point shooters, although not near Niang’s class, but much better defensively.
Philadelphia 76ers: Doc Rivers using Georges Niang the same?
Doc Rivers, in a rare adjustment, has pulled Niang from some games during the regular season when he was not hitting his outside shots. But he was still a crucial part of the Sixers rotation.
His minutes went from 22.8 a game in 2021-22 to 19.4 this season, still good for eighth highest among regulars, and more than McDaniels, who will probably be more valuable in the playoffs.
Niang’s shooting prowess would be very valuable if he could could stay on the floor. Unfortunately, Niang has not gotten any quicker, and the opponents are not any slower.
In the first two games against the Brooklyn Nets, Niang has received the same amount of playing time as last post-season, but it, if anything, struggling even more:
2022 playoffs: 16.5 minutes, 4.6 points average
2023 playoffs: 17.3 minutes, 4.3 points average
Niang’s nadir came in Game 2 against the Nets. With the team misfiring on offense badly in the first half, they really could have used a couple of ‘Bang-bang-Niangs’ to get the scoring going. However, Niang did not take a shot in 13 minutes, and had two turnovers. If you watched the game, it was not like he was passing up shots, he simply was not open, as Brooklyn went with a small, quick lineup much of the time.
With a probable matchup with the Boston Celtics looming in the next round, a team featuring even more dangerous and athletic wings than the Nets, Niang’s playing time, and effectiveness when he is on the floor, will come under even more scrutiny.
With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Niang’s future with the 76ers is truly up in the air.
He is definitely a help with his three-point shooting prowess during the regular season, but if Doc Rivers can not put him in a playoff game, without the opponent’s attacking him relentlessly on the defensive end, what is the point?
So far, and we are only two games into the postseason as of this writing, Niang is not having any more luck being able to stay on the floor than he did last season. This should not be a surprise, and if Morey and Rivers did not prepare for this obvious situation, that is entirely on them.