Jordan Clarkson is getting a lot of attention for leading the Utah Jazz bench out of its early-season doldrums, and deservedly so. He’s sitting at 14.8 points per game since moving across the country. But in close proximity to the trade that brought the veteran scoring guard from Cleveland to Utah was another move whose results have borne delectable fruit.
On Dec. 23, the Jazz released forward Jeff Green who’d had a very troubling season on the court. With this choice to let the 33-year old combo forward go, the front office made another very clear choice: give Georges Niang more time on the court.
Laying down the groundwork to let Niang run more freely is among the numerous reasons the Jazz are on its rampage across the NBA.
Even before Utah moved on from Green, there were good signs from Niang in the 11.7 minutes he averaged through the team’s first 30 games. He was shooting 41.5 percent from three on a little over two attempts per game. Every now and again, he surpassed the arbitrary 10 point mark for a decent scoring outing.
Yet, even with solid scoring numbers, Niang’s time on the court didn’t produce results. His offensive rating sat at 92.5. Among Jazz players who appeared in at least 15 of Utah’s first 30 games, only Ed Davis’ 91.5 ORTG was worse. That slapped a -14.2 net rating onto Niang which was the worst among the 11 main rotation players.
Given that almost complete lack of impact, it’s maybe a surprise that the team went with its decision to let go of Green and elevate Niang’s role. Perhaps they saw something that didn’t show up as much in the advanced stats because Niang has turned that trend right on its head.
In the last 13 games, Niang has an offensive rating of 114.7 and a net rating of 6.0. These numbers aren’t world-beating, even among his fellow teammates (his net rating is still only seventh among rotation players). But it shows a remarkable improvement.
Georges Niang Improvements post-Jeff Green
|Pre-Jeff Green release||24||11.7||4.5||1.7||0.4||0.464||0.415||92.5||106.7||-14.2|
|After Jeff Green release||13||16.6||8.1||2.2||0.8||0.474||0.466||114.7||108.7||6|
Niang isn’t going to take over any games, that’s not what he’s there for. But having a reliable guy to throw in off the bench to fill the gaps left by Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Ingles in the forward spot holds incredible value. For his part, Niang is keeping up with his starting counterparts and even outdoing them in some areas.
In terms of 3-point shooting, Niang’s numbers are up from his already potent 41 percent mark. Since Christmas Eve, he’s making 46.6 percent of his triples. Only Joe Ingles (and Mike Conley on six attempts) tops that stellar shooting rate. Though, to try and further boost Niang’s image, he had a three-game stretch where he went 0 for 6 from deep, meaning that in the remaining 10 games, he’s been bringing 54 percent 3-point shooting to the table.
Niang is a small piece on this team, not a lot is placed on him. But great teams have players like Niang filling their smaller roles and being elite in that role.