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August 03, 2021

Sixers sign Georges Niang to two-year deal

Former Utah Jazz forward Georges Niang is signing with Philadelphia on a two-year deal worth $6.7 million, a team source confirmed to PhillyVoice on Tuesday evening. Ben Dowsett was the first to report the news. Word leaked out earlier Tuesday that the Sixers might have a deal lined up with Niang, and this one ended up getting completed relatively quickly.

The easiest way to think about Niang as a Sixers fan is as an upgrade to the Mike Scott spot on the roster and in the rotation, assuming he gets minutes. Niang has remained an efficient shooter as his volume has increased and his role has expanded in Utah over the last few seasons, culminating in a 42.5 percent year from deep in 2020-21 on over four attempts per game. That has given him a path to play on a team that has consistently been a competitive playoff team and last season rose to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, their second-round exit notwithstanding.

Improvement elsewhere, mind you, is another reason Niang has been able to stay on the floor for a good team. While he's not offering you much positional flexibility in the rotation — Niang should be guarding opposing fours at pretty much all times — he's sturdy if someone takes him into the post and will be relatively successful against opponents who try to win on strength. There will be matchups where he's a liability due to disadvantages in the speed and agility departments, and playing perimeter-focused defense isn't his calling card, but the Sixers should be able to hide him on favorable matchups for most of his minutes (at least in the regular season).

The Sixers will have to live with some occasionally questionable decision-making, which is amplified by issues with ballhandling and a lack of in-between game. But he's a ready and willing shooter, and that will make him useful in a variety of lineups, whether he's alongside Joel Embiid or spacing the floor in a small-ball look around Ben Simmons, so long as he's here next season. Embiid has always loved having this type of player alongside him, dating back to Ersan Ilyasova's time with the Sixers, so this one makes a bit of sense for bench depth, especially after Doc Rivers griped about their bench size in the wake of the Atlanta loss.

On the other hand, the method through which Philadelphia is signing him was a bit of a surprise — a source told PhillyVoice the Sixers are using part of their non-taxpayer midlevel exception in order to sign Niang. However, a source told PhillyVoice that this deal, based on the years and dollars offered to Niang, will not trigger a hard cap at the apron for Philadelphia. That would be triggered only if the Sixers spend more than the value of the taxpayer MLE (roughly $5.9 million) or sign four years worth of mid-level exception contracts. 

Spelled out in the collective bargaining agreement legalese, it looks like this:

In the event that a Team uses the Non-Taxpayer Mid-level Salary Exception in order to sign one (1) or more new Player Contracts during a Salary Cap Year, not to exceed three (3) Seasons in length that, in the aggregate, provide for Salaries and Unlikely Bonuses in the first Salary Cap Year of the Contract(s) totaling no more than the amounts set forth in Section 6(f)(2) above, and, but for the Team’s use of the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Salary Exception as described above, the Team otherwise would be permitted to engage in a transaction that causes the Team’s Team Salary to exceed the Tax Level for such Salary Cap Year plus the Tax Apron Amount in accordance with the rules set forth in this Article VII, then the Team shall be permitted to engage in such transaction, whereupon the Team will be deemed to have used the Taxpayer Mid-Level Salary Exception instead of the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Salary Exception for all purposes under this Article VII, and the Team’s ability to use the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Salary Exception during such Salary Cap Year shall thereupon be extinguished.

The Sixers could cross that threshold eventually, but for the time being, they have left themselves a bit of wiggle room to maneuver in the event a big opportunity comes their way.It should be noted, of course, that the Sixers aren't promising to deliver a star-level trade at some point in the coming, weeks, months, or even this season, but they are certainly interested in making one if they have the opportunity.

The upside here is that the Sixers still have a bit of flexibility to work with, should big opportunities become available to them in the future, though it does mean they are limited in their options to acquire more talent right now beyond getting guys to join the team on minimum deals. That likely means a lot of minutes will be filled using the young talent they have on hand, including Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle, who the Sixers hope to see big steps forward from this season.

Signing Niang is another move that makes plenty of sense on paper, another guy who can play a specific role and help the team out. But it does still feel like the Sixers are in need of one big move to tie it all together and push them forward, as other Eastern Conference competitors gear up for a dogfight next spring.

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