Top NBA Prospects in the Big 12, Part 5: Prospects #5-8 September 12, 2014
One of the most productive players in high school basketball (averaging 30 points per-40 in Nike EYBL play on ridiculous scoring efficiency), despite not being considered a top-50 recruit by any of the high school scouting services, Georges Niang blossomed into an elite college player virtually from day one, being a major factor in Iowa State's resurgence under Fred Hoiberg.
Niang is an extremely unique player, standing 6-8 and seeing most of his minutes rotating between the power forward and center positions defensively, but operating as somewhat of a point forward in Iowa State's offense. He has the freedom to grab a rebound and bring the ball up the floor himself, and acts as one of their primary facilitators from both the high and low post in the half-court.
Niang's versatility shines through in his passing metrics, as he is the only frontcourt player among all returning Top-100 prospects to post a positive pure point ratio last season. Only 12 college players standing 6-8 or taller who averaged more than 4 assists per-40 minutes (like Niang did) have been drafted since 2000 (see chart), but it's important to note than an additional 31 players accomplished the same and did not get picked.
Niang saw his offensive possessions in a variety of ways last season, be it posting up, spotting up on the 3-point line, finishing on cuts and pick and rolls, or creating his own shot from the outside, but he was most effective with his back to the basket. He uses his strong frame to establish solid post-position and then does a great job utilizing his excellent footwork, soft hands and terrific touch around the rim with either hand. When double teams arrive Niang is very good at finding the open man cutting to the basket.
There are some question marks about how this part of his game will translate to the professional level, though, as Niang is very much a below the rim player who gets his shot blocked fairly frequently and doesn't draw that many fouls. He is not very effective in transition, as he struggles with length at times, relying very heavily on his superior basketball IQ and skill-level to find advantages against other collegiate big men, but this might not work quite as well against NBA players, who are typically far more gifted physically.
To Niang's credit, he's far more than just a back to the basket player at the college level, as he also does a good amount of working facing the rim as well. He's very adept at creating his own shot in one on one situations, not because he owns a lightning quick first step, but more-so thanks to his terrific timing, body control and footwork.
Niang operates at his own pace on the perimeter and does an excellent job utilizing shot-fakes, crafty ball-handling moves, and his own strong frame to keep opponents off balance. Once inside the paint, he uses all kinds of nifty runners and floaters to finish creatively around the basket, often utilizing the backboard with his superb touch. He's just a very difficult matchup for opposing centers to handle at the college level, because they simply aren't used to guarding players who can dribble and create the way he can, not just for himself but also for teammates.
Also a relatively effective shooter, Niang converted 36% of his jumpers last season in catch and shoot situations, hitting 1.4 3-pointers per game. He shoots a flat-footed set shot with a fairly slow release, but shows good potential to continue to develop this part of his game, something that will be extremely important for him at the pro level. After hitting 39% of his 3-pointers as a freshman that number dropped to 33% as a sophomore, but he should be able to improve on that as a junior as he shows good mechanics and touch on his jumper.
Niang almost never takes an off the dribble jump-shot (only 9 attempts all season), which helps his overall field goal percentage. This is very much by design, as his Iowa State attempted the lowest percentage of off the dribble jumper attempts in all of college basketball last season, taking one on just 6% of all offensive possessions according to Synergy Sports Technology.
Defensively, Niang has a lot of things going against him, as he's somewhat undersized for a big man at 6-8, and does not possess very long arms to compensate, measuring just a 6-9 wingspan at the Nike Skills Academy this summer. He gets posted up a decent amount and shot over with relative ease, not having the length to contest shots effectively inside the post or on the perimeter when matched up one on one. On top of that, he lacks both quickness and explosiveness, which nullifies any chance he has at being much of a rim protector (he's blocked just 28 shots in nearly 2000 minutes at Iowa State so far), as he's simply not a leaper at all.
To his credit, Niang is a very competitive player with excellent timing and anticipation skills, which helps him from being a liability on this end of the floor. He puts a solid effort in and isn't someone that opposing coaches can game-plan to score on with ease. There are question marks regarding how he'll fare at the NBA level, though, specifically what position he'll guard, as he clearly won't be able to defend centers like he mostly does at Iowa State. To address this, Niang has elected to shed quite a bit of weight (25 pounds reportedly) this summer (see this before and after photo
Niang posted). It will be interesting to see what effect this has on his game, particularly on the defensive end of the floor.
One of the biggest concerns around Niang is how poor of a rebounder (1.3 offensive rebounds per-40, 4.6 defensive) he's been at the college level thus far, on both ends of the court. Should he end up getting drafted, he will have the unenviable distinction of having one of the five worst rebounding seasons among power forward or centers picked in the past 30 years, and the worst since Steve Novak and DaJuan Summers. Part of his offensive rebounding woes revolve around his role for Iowa State, but his short arms and below average athleticism certainly don't help matters much.
A year old for his class, Niang turns 22 this June, making him the same age as many college seniors. This might help explain the urgency he showed this past summer to get into the best shape of his life, as this is likely going to be an important season for him to show scouts that he is serious about parlaying his very unique style of play into a NBA roster spot. Opinions about Niang's prospects at the NBA level are very much split at this point, but there is very little doubt that he deserves serious consideration considering how productive and versatile a college player he is.
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Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12, Part 4 (#6-10)September 27, 2013
An extremely fundamentally sound player, Georges Niang had a strong freshman season for the Iowa State Cyclones, successfully transitioning his game to the higher level of competition he faced in the Big 12. Niang averaged 12.1 points per game in 25.1 minutes for the Cyclones, making an immediate impact for the deep Iowa State team as an inside-out threat.
Standing 6'7", with a solid build and length, but underwhelming athleticism and explosion, Niang will be at a serious physical disadvantage at the next level. He combats this with a diverse offensive game and an incredible feel for the game. Niang was able to provide Iowa State with an inside-out threat, being a scoring threat both with his back to the basket as well as from the perimeter. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Niang got significant portions of his offense from spot-up opportunities (20.3% of his offensive output), post-ups (19.8%), pick and rolls (19.8%) and cuts (11.2%). This diversity made Niang a tough cover for opposing defenses.
Niang has very good feel and footwork in the post, with a combination of of spin moves, up-and-under moves, and hook shots over either shoulder. He does a good job of feeling his defender and reacting, adjusting his moves as necessary and with the diversity to convert in a variety of different ways. While Niang could definitely stand to continue adding muscle to his frame, he has solid lower body strength and is able to initiate contact and back his man down. He also does a good job of getting his shot up over length, something critically important for a player only 6'7", doing a good job of initiating contact with his shoulder and upper body in order to create space, and does a good job of protecting the ball. He recognizes double teams fairly well and does a good job finding the weak point in defensive rotations, something aided by Iowa State's excellent shooting and floor spacing last year.
Niang's other main area of expertise is in pick and rolls. While Niang is a threat to dive to the basket, setting a good pick and doing a good job of sealing his defender to present a good target for the ball handler to pass to, it's his proficiency off of the pick and pop that makes him such a threat, and something that could translate well to the next level. Niang is an excellent catch and shoot player for a big man, always in excellent position to receive the pass and with a short, compact shooting motion, high release point, and excellent follow through and touch. According to Synergy Sports Technology, the 1.413 points per possession he averaged on pick and pop attempts were better than 96% of players in college basketball.
Niang is not much of a threat to drive the ball to the basket from the perimeter, but he is able to use the attention he receives off of pick and pops to drive into the lane thanks to his excellent pump fake. The combination of his threat as a shooter and his excellent pump fake makes him difficult to close out on, and he uses this to create scoring opportunities for himself in the lane. Niang's lack of explosiveness limits him somewhat finishing off of drives, but he has solid touch with either hand and isn't afraid to absorb contact, although he struggles to finish through contact at times and could stand to add some upper body strength.
Niang also gets a fair portion of his offense from cuts to the basket, showing excellent ability to find seams in a defense and possessing soft hands. While not explosive around the rim, Niang does a good job getting of being decisive and getting the ball up quickly, frequently before the defense has time to close out on him.
The defensive side of the ball is where it becomes difficult to project Niang. He clearly doesn't have the food speed to play the small forward position at the next level, and will even be at a disadvantage against more perimeter-oriented power forwards. He struggles defending the pick and roll, giving far too much space to the ball handler, likely due to his slow foot speed and struggles changing direction. While he has solid technique defending the post and is capable of holding his ground, his lack of height and length causes him to struggle to adequately contest shots. He also provides virtually nothing in the way of altering shots at the rim to help combat some of these deficiencies on this side of the court.
Another area where Niang struggles in is on the glass, as he's neither a proficient offensive nor defensive rebounder, collecting just 6.8 rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted. He doesn't seem to be all that instinctive of a rebounder on either end and could definitely stand to add more strength as his body fills out.
Georges Niang is a very fundamentally sound player with an incredibly diverse offensive game. While his post game is not likely to translate to the next level as well as it has to the Big 12, the diversity and feel he has in the post as well as his ability to get shots off over length provide some measure of hope, and his ability to shoot off the pick and roll is a definite potential asset. It's his inability to guard either forward position that is the biggest question mark decision makers will have, and one that could seriously hinder his draft stock.
With the loss of much of their talent from last season, Iowa State is going to look like a very different team this year, with Niang as well as DeAndre Kane, a transfer from Marshall, leading the way. Not only will Niang assume a much larger role, but much of the shooting that gave Iowa State their excellent floor spacing will be lost, particularly Tyrus McGee, who shot 46.4% from three point range, making 2.7 per game. Much of that perimeter scoring will be replaced by Kane, who while not nearly the shooting threat – he only made 1.1 three's per game at a 24.8% clip – he will provide an interesting pick and roll dynamic with Niang as he has an ability to get to the basket coming off of the pick. It will be interesting to see how well Niang is able to shoulder the new offensive load and the changing team dynamics.
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2011 National Prep Showcase: Best of the RestNovember 27, 2011
One of the more highly developed players from a skill set and awareness standpoint of those in attendance, Georges Niang (#82 ESPN, #69 Scout, #98 Rivals) is an excellent basketball player with a unique game and a strong knack for winning.
Standing 6'7 with a strong but not particularly well-defined build, Niang is a below average athlete in terms of quickness and explosiveness, but he has an excellent understanding of how to use his body, being extremely functional with what tools he does have.
On the offensive end, Niang doesn't have a very pretty game from a stylistic standpoint, but he is extremely fundamentally sound and even more advanced with his awareness and polish, constantly finding ways to make positive contributions with the ball.
Niang is capable of scoring in virtually every facet of the game, having highly advanced post moves and footwork, a strong, controlled dribble and excellent creativity and touch when finishing around the rim. He also sports a serviceable spot-up jump shot with three-point range, and an extremely effective shot fake to boot.
On top of it all, his feel is superb in all areas, as is his motor, which is necessary given that he lacks a conventional position on the offensive end and will have an athleticism and/or size disadvantage against every position at the college level. This shows up at times against this level of competition, namely with his inability to elevate in the lane, making him prone to having his shot blocked, but he has the creativity and instincts in the paint to overcome it frequently.
How Niang will adjust against higher levels of competition will be critical on the offensive end, but his potential defensive shortcomings are likely most concerning, given he lacks the size and/or lateral quickness to effectively defend any position consistently, something that will have to be overcome with motor, reflexes, and fundamentals.
Looking forward, Niang is the type of player every college coach loves to have and will likely find ways to consistently contribute on the offensive end in a variety of areas, but how he will hold his own on defense will likely be the key to his effectiveness and long term prospects. Similarly unconventional players haven't had an easy time finding their way into the NBA (Jared Dudley being the obvious exception), so Niang will certainly have an uphill battle in that regard even if he can continue to perform at a very high level in college.
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