Probably one of the most remarkable careers in the NBA is that of Joe Ingles. It’s only been five years since the Clippers cut him and the Jazz took a chance on the 6’8” do-it-all forward from Australia.
Some may forgotten that it wasn’t obvious how good Ingles was when he first joined the Jazz. His rookie season he showed flashes of a really solid player with his surprisingly good ball handling and passing. He also shot a respectable 35% from three. The problem was Ingles was so reluctant to shoot he’d sometimes frustrate the offense by passing up open looks. Luckily, Dennis Lindsey and Quin Snyder knew they’d found a dynamic player that just needed more opportunity.
Fast forward five years and Ingles has helped win playoff games by outplaying Paul George and lead Australia to its first ever victory against team USA.
Finding a player like Ingles for nothing is a stroke of luck that turns franchises around. With the addition of Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic, if the Jazz had another player develop like Ingles has, it could take the team over the top.
There’s a player on the Jazz that looks like he has a chance to take that step if given the opportunity.
Here’s a few interesting facts about Niang. He’s 6’8” tall, just like Joe Ingles. He’s listed on basketball reference at 230 pounds, Ingles is listed at 226.
Last season he shot 47% from the field (56% from 2) and 41% from three while shooting 83% from the free throw line. He also can handle the ball and at times would even be the primary initiator for Utah’s second unit. He only averaged 8 minutes per game but if you look at his per-36 numbers he would have averaged 16.4 points, 2.4 assists and 6.1 rebounds while hitting three 3s a game. If you didn’t know who I was talking about you might have thought I was talking about Joe Ingles, right? (insert spiderman pointing meme here)
Obviously per-36 numbers are sometimes misleading because it doesn’t take into context whether a player is going against second units, sample size etc. The reason to think some of those numbers are legit? Niang came into last year’s playoff series between the Jazz and the Rockets and had a positive impact.
The Jazz had a fantastic offseason when they were able to acquire Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic and Ed Davis. Although in doing so they lost both Derrick Favors and Jae Crowder who played the majority of minutes at the power forward for the Jazz.
Bogdanovic might be able to play some minutes at the 4-spot but it’s probably more likely for him that he plays time at the four in specific situations but not all of his minutes. Much like Joe Ingles does.
There was one other player on the Jazz that played the majority of their minutes at the 4-spot and that was Georges Niang. With Favors and Crowder not in the picture, this could be the perfect opportunity for Niang to fill that void.
When you look at his skill set and the numbers he put up he might not just fill that void, but really shine.
Take a look at the video below and all the things Niang was able to do from the power forward position in the playoffs.
The shooting is obviously a big deal. If Niang can keep his percentages around 40% it’s an incredible boost to any offense. But those aren’t the only things that get me excited.
Niang is a very solid ball handler and passer. He sees the open man and makes the right pass to open shooters and in transition.
Speaking of transition, Niang shows a decent ability to rebound the ball but the best part is how he creates an instant fast break with each rebound because of that ability to handle and pass.
On top of that, Niang has a really soft touch around the rim and it shows with his 47% shooting. Like Ingles, Niang isn’t an explosive athlete but he’s crafty in his ability to get his shot. Oftentimes it will be by creating his own shots with a floater or with a mini post game. He also uses his size and handle to his advantage. In the last game of the season you could see the full repertoire for Niang.
This offseason will have been a huge one for Niang. Has he been able to transform his body so he can handle the rigors of an 82-game season and playoffs beyond? If he has, and if he can produce near his per-36 projection with a bigger workload, the Jazz may have found another diamond in the rough and a perfect fit at the power forward position.