Unrestricted free agent had a career year but struggled to play in the playoffs
Georges Niang just had the best season of his career.
Now the 28-year-old Stretch-Four, the Utah Jazz and the rest of the NBA have to decide how much “The Minivan” is worth.
Niang seems like a natural fit for some or all of an NBA team’s mid-range exceptions, worth between $ 4.9 million and $ 9.5 million a year. All 30 NBA teams have this salary cap exemption – and Niang has just made a career of three in a league where shooting is in high demand.
But to what extent teams interested in his services will devalue his quality performances in the regular season with his playoff fights – admittedly in a small sample – could be the biggest question Niang faces as he has an unconditional free this summer Becomes agent.
After starting his jazz career as a two-way pickup truck four years ago, Niang claimed a rotation spot this season and even started 10 games at the end of the year when the jazz was hampered by injuries.
The 28-year-old shot from three to a career high of 42.5%. He even seemed to be playing at his best defensive level ever, improving his agility to the point where he was no longer a major weakness. In fact, Jazz outperformed its opponents with a whopping 14.9 points per 100 possessions with Niang in the game. (Most of this was due to spending time with Mike Conley and Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, but Niang was a key component of the attack.)
Everything seemed to be going perfectly for Niang; as an unrestricted free agent, he was able to benefit from his best season of all time this summer.
And then came the playoffs.
The Memphis series wasn’t too bad. Sure, Niang shot 35% out of the field and his goal average dropped a bit, but so did his playing time. And the jazz still outperformed the Grizzlies in four of the five games when it was on the floor.
But the series against the Clippers? Oh no.
Niang played 59 minutes in the series and scored just five points, shooting 2 for 13 off the field. He only did one of his 10 threesomes. While he did not score, he committed five ball losses. Defensively, the Clippers aimed at him and he proved to be no match for the challenge.
“Playoff experience is real,” said Niang. “Of course there is a big difference between the regular season and the playoffs. Of course I would like to contribute a little more. But you learn and I think it’s a growth process for us as players and as an organization. “
Niang sounded like he was returning to Utah when asked about his vacancy the day after the season.
“If things go forward, whatever happens. I’ve never been a free agent so I’m new to all of these things. Obviously, my heart is in Utah. I love Utah, ”said Niang. “You gave me the opportunity to grow and mature as a man and a player. And I am eternally grateful for that. And I love to be here. “
The jazz might be interested in Niang returning if it comes at the right cost. But seeing them again would be expensive. With the jazz over the luxury tax in 2020-21 and the subsequent addition of large sums of money to Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, Niang’s return would likely spell luxury tax payments to the league for his contract in 2021-22. If Niang signs a $ 5 million deal with the Jazz, it would mean many times that number out of owner Ryan Smith’s pockets, depending on how far the Jazz is above the luxury tax limit. (Again, that depends on whether Conley is returning and on what salary.)
Will “The Minivan” hit the streets or stay parked in Salt Lake City? We will see.