Niang has been off early with Cavs, but it’s not the end of the world

Georges Niang, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
Georges Niang, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports) /

When he was one of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ top offseason signings via three-year deal, it was expected that Georges Niang would be brought in to shoot deep balls. Niang has connected on his share of three-point shots over the past several seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers and previously, the Utah Jazz, and he should improve the Cavs’ shooting.

Niang has connected on 40.0-plus percent of his three-point shot attempts over the last five seasons, and last season, he hit 154 threes in the regular season with Philadelphia. Niang was a player that was linked to Cleveland ahead of free agency over the summer as a catch-and-shoot threat that could bolster the Cavaliers’ shooting efforts, and as a result, it wasn’t shocking when he signed with them.

It was a sensible signing for the Wine and Gold to bring in Niang, with those things in mind, and he should be able to help open up Cleveland’s top options more in time when he’s on the floor with them. Niang could prove to be a viable pick-and-pop option in stretches, too.

Although thus far, Niang has not been able to get his deep looks to fall. But, in fairness to him, it’s just three games into the 2023-24 campaign, and Cleveland has been without Darius Garland the last two contests. Niang should be fine, the Cavs just need to continue to find him.

Niang has started slow with the Cavs, but it’s not the end of the world.

Niang went scoreless in the Cleveland’s opening win at the Brooklyn Nets, and had two points in the Cavaliers’ loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Following that, he had seven points in Saturday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers. He did not hit a three-point shot in Cleveland’s first two games, and went one-of-four from beyond the arc against Indiana in a loss.

Point being, Niang has not been on in his first few games with the Cavaliers. He’s started the 2023-24 campaign one-of-12 from deep, an 8.3 percent hit rate. He’s four-of-19 overall through those three games, a 21.1 percent clip.

Niang has not looked in-rhythm regularly in his catch-and-shoot looks nearly enough to get going, and some of those shots have seemed to be rushed. Going forward, Cleveland has to find ways to incorporate him more with some more opportunities for pick-and-pop touches, maybe looks occasionally as a roll man, or more as a cutter working with Max Strus.

Now, of course, for Niang, among others shooters, not having Darius Garland the past two games doesn’t help, as he’s dealt with a hamstring strain that was initially sustained back in the preseason.

Cleveland has been prioritizing having more man and ball movement in their offense, and pushing the pace more is a good approach, but with Garland not being involved of late, it’s going to limit the team to some degree. Donovan Mitchell was not active versus the Pacers as well, for what it’s worth. The Cavs taking the cautious approach with both and ensuring they’re fully ready is the right call, anyway.

When the Cavaliers get healthier, which should seemingly be soon, it should make a big difference for players like Niang and Strus, among others. However, even with the off start for Niang, his spacing still matters for Caris LeVert and Evan Mobley, and if he has a bounce-back game with the level of off-ball shooter is, that could get him on the right track soon.

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Fans shouldn’t be worried with the Niang off nights. It’s so early in the season here, and Cleveland getting healthier should only help his play as a shooter. And he’s three games into his Cavs career, so some people might want to just take a deep breath. The sky isn’t falling.