The Cleveland Cavaliers had one primary tool to use in free agency to sign a new player: the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception, which started around $12.4 million. After making their big swing to add Max Strus via a sign-and-trade, the Cavs didn’t use the MLE on one single player, but instead broke it up, using the largest chunk on former Philadelphia 76ers stretch-4 Georges Niang.
The Cavs wanted to improve their shooting, and Niang had hit at least 40 percent of his 3-pointers in five straight seasons. He was supposed to unlock lineups with Evan Mobley at center, space the court and help take the Cleveland offense to another level.
That has not been the case to start the season, as Niang hasn’t been able to hit anything from the field. He is just 5-for-24 from deep (20.8 percent) and hasn’t compensated by hitting his inside shots, either; he is just 4-for-13 from 2-point range. Out of all 162 players this season with at least 35 shot attempts, Niang’s effective field-goal percentage of 31.1 percent ranks dead last.
Head coach J.B. Bickerstaff inserted Niang into the starting lineup in their most recent game against the New York Knicks, and to his credit Niang played hard and pulled down 10 rebounds, earning the Junkyard Dog chain for the night. But even then he shot 1-for-6 from the field and had four fouls against just five points.
For the season, Niang has a plus-minus of -30, and his BPM of -10.8 is among the worst in the league. He is going to need to become prime Moses Malone on the board if he is going to make up for a complete lack of offense, and he will never be more than a try-hard defender. Shooting is streaky and his track record suggests it will come around, but as Dean Wade can testify from last season, at some point a lack of shot-making relegates a player to the outside of the rotation.
Such a reality seems unthinkable given the three-year investment the Cavaliers made in Niang, and they’ll give him every opportunity to get out of this slump. It’s quite the slump, however, and it illustrates how poor of a start to the season Niang, and this team, have had.