Georges Niang could fill Kevin Love-lite role for Cleveland Cavaliers bench

Georges Niang, Philadelphia 76ers. (Photo by Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)
Georges Niang, Philadelphia 76ers. (Photo by Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports) /

This offseason, the Cleveland Cavaliers have to find ways to give their club a shooting lift. Cleveland has two shot creators in Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell who can get theirs in a variety of ways, and both themselves have demonstrated they can find their teammates on-time and on-target with precise passes.

The problem was, there was a lack of consistency around that star tandem in the backcourt when it came to perimeter shooting. Players such as Caris LeVert, Isaac Okoro and Cedi Osman all are capable of hitting open looks, and LeVert and Osman can give Cleveland a lift offensively, in particular.

Having said that, it’s not shocking how the Cavaliers have been linked to a number of wings, whether it’s possible trade targets or free agency targets for this offseason ahead. Trade targets such as Royce O’Neale, Dorian Finney-Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr., Buddy Hield and Bojan Bogdanovic are names that have been mentioned as possibilities it appears, and the likes of Kelly Oubre Jr., Jalen McDaniels, Joe Ingles and Terrence Ross could seemingly be free agency targets.

In addition to bolstering their wing/small forward outlook, it would behoove Cleveland to replenish their 4/5 man depth, though. It’s not surprising how Naz Reid and Mason Plumlee, among others, have been linked to the Cavaliers, to that point. Grant Williams and Georges Niang could be valuable stretch bigs for the Wine and Gold as well, and could factor into the 4 man rotation as meaningful shooters.

Niang has been a player linked to the Cavs as seemingly a player on their radar this offseason, when he’s due to be an unrestricted free agent. Further, reporter Kelsey Russo of The Athletic (subscription required) discussed Niang in a piece where she suggested four players the Cavs could target with their Nontaxpayer Mid-Level Exception, in particular.

Regarding Niang, in this sense, he’s a player who could really give the Cavs bench an offensive spark as a shooter, in my estimation, and could function as a Kevin Love-esque contributor.

Niang could be Love-lite for the Cavaliers bench.

This isn’t saying Niang could be a player that comes in and is just like Love was in the 2021-22, when he finished second in Sixth Man of the Year voting. That said, Niang could be a more than capable stretch big to have for Cleveland’s rotation as a spacer and pick-and-pop player for the Cavaliers to utilize for stretches that could prove impactful.

Niang had 8.2 points per contest in the 2022-23 campaign with the Philadelphia 76ers, in what was on an average of 19.4 minutes per outing in 78 appearances. As we alluded to, though, along with Russo, the allure with Niang is how he could provide a bench shooting lift in his minutes.

He hit 40.1 percent of his 4.9 three-point attempts per game in the regular season during this now-past season with Philadelphia, and in the year prior with the Sixers, he shot 40.3 percent from downtown on 5.1 deep balls per outing. Then, he averaged 9.2 points in 22.8 minutes per game.

Niang’s production decreased in the postseason, as did his opportunities, however, as Russo touched on. He had 4.4 points per game in Philly’s 11 playoff games; he canned 46.2 percent of his deep attempts, but on 2.4 attempts per outing in an average of 14.3 minutes.

The opportunities being down wasn’t inconceivable in the postseason, in fairness, and one shouldn’t read a ton into that. And with the Cavs being mostly devoid of stretch bigs at the moment since Kevin Love’s buyout, picking up Niang with potentially some of the Cavs’ MLE would be sensible.

He’s proven himself to be a valuable bench shooter the past two seasons with Philly, and in the 2020-21 season with the Utah Jazz, he converted on 42.5 percent of his then-4.1 deep attempts per outing. Niang has been well-acquainted with Mitchell, too, dating back to their time as teammates with the Jazz.

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For stretches at the 4, for the most part, Niang, who turns 30 next month, could be a solid free agency signing for the Cavaliers to give their bench an offensive spark. In the process, he could maybe fill a Love-lite role.