Last night, the Sixers took home their 5th win in 6 games since the NBA All-Star break, knocking off Chicago to sweep the season series with the Bulls. It was another huge night for Joel Embiid, who put up 43 and 14, but there was another seemingly unlikely star on the night. Georges Niang looked great again in the game, adding 14 points to the effort on 4 of 7 from deep. Niang has looked like a different player with the addition of James Harden, and it may have filled a very important role for Philly.

The starting lineup is of utmost importance when it comes to the NBA playoffs. Benches are shortened, minutes are increased for the top players, and the margin for error is minimized. Because of all that, it seems strange to be super fixated on the bench, but there are still a handful of guys that don’t start that will have to have a positive impact for the Sixers if they want to reach the peak of the NBA. The first guy off the bench can end up making or breaking a game or two, and those games can end up making or breaking a series. Think about (I know, I’m sorry for bringing it up) what Danilo Gallinari did for the Hawks off the bench last year against the Sixers. He was absolutely a difference maker in that series. Great teams have an awesome starting 5, but they also need an above average 6th man. Since the trade deadline, it appears that Georges Niang has asserted himself as the best option to fill that role.

First of all, Niang is the perfect modern NBA wing. Well, minus the athleticism at least. He has basically two shots in his game: a rim running layup/floater, and an above average 3 point shot. That’s a perfect fit for a player like James Harden or a big man like Joel Embiid. He helps space the floor, he can put the ball on the floor at times and drive, and he plays serviceable enough defense. What’s more, the other options are not all that attractive, which furthers Niang’s case. Danny Green is probably the next best choice, but he does not possess the ability to get to the rim as well as Niang. His shot also seems streakier, at least this season. Furkan Korkmaz is in the cold streak of all cold streaks, and can’t even get off the bench. Shake Milton is more ball dominant, Isaiah Joe is too young, and Matisse Thybulle is already starting because of his defense. Are there better options than Niang that exist in the NBA? Probably, but with an already dominant big 3, the Sixers can get away with a bench unit that isn’t perfect. What is non-negotiable, though, is having an above average 6th man to go to first off the bench. I’m not sure how many people would have predicted it at the beginning of the season, but the minivan seems like he’s firmly driven into that lane.