Two Iowa State standouts — including one of the best and most beloved Cyclones ever — were selected at the tail end of the second round in last night’s NBA Draft.
Georges Niang — who ended his career as the one of the highest scoring Cyclones in program history and won the national Karl Malone Award for best power forward of the year — was selected as the 50th overall pick by the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers are a good landing spot for Niang for a few reasons:
They have a brand new head coach this year in former assistant Nate McMillen. That’s potentially good for Georges since new coaches are often more willing to try out a wide variety of lineups, especially early in the season, rather than being locked into a core they have a history with.
The trendy term in this year’s draft was “positionless player.” The success of the Golden State Warriors the past few seasons has put a premium on guys who have a broad skill set and a body type that can allow them to guard multiple positions well. Niang fits perfectly into this trend. He is an amazing passer and a good shooter for a guy his size and he has the intelligence, size, and strength to play a team defensive scheme that could have him switching from forwards on to guards in pick-and-roll scenarios. Plus his height, aggression, and vision are assets on the boards of course, too.
The Pacers just traded away one of their rotation players in George Hill in order to acquire point guard Jeff Teague from the Hawks. So if he plays well in Summer League and training camp there could be a place for him among the Pacers’ second unit.
He’s a playmaking big. This is another trend in the NBA that really suits Niang’s skillset. Teams are eager to develop players in the image of Draymond Green (who was also a second round pick, mind you), players who can set up their teammates to score from within the post. Georges excels at filling the box score with assists, throwing lobs for alley oops, and finding teammates with mismatches. These are the marks the playmaking big.
His playmaking extends to his shooting, which could be a good fit for his new teammate Jeff Teague, who likes to drive into the lane but will only have the space to do so if a forward like Niang is perceived to be a scoring threat from the perimeter (which, in college, he definitely was). Of course, the Pacers’ star player is Paul George, one of the five best forwards in the NBA as well as a deadly shooter. So he’ll be in the starting rotation with Teague, but Niang can potentially give you a similar (though vastly less talented) look in your second unit.
The Pacers are already good. One nice thing about going late in the draft is that you have a better chance of being drafted by a winning team. The Pacers are already a playoff team and it was only three years ago that they were battling the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. Niang will be able to have the feeling of winning and being a part of a positive culture. Also, gotta be nice to know that you’ll be playing for Pacers GM Larry Bird.
Now onto Abdel Nader. He was selected with the 58th pick by the Boston Celtics and has agreed to spend his first season in the D-League. I could be wrong, but my sense is that Nader was selected as more of an asset to be used in a trade bundle than as a contributing player. The Celtics are already replete with young talent and are not trying to get any younger. Celtics GM Danny Ainge is known to be working on acquiring one of the top free agents in this year’s offseason, perhaps a veteran like Dwight Howard or Kevin Love or the grand prize Kevin Durant. He has been hoarding young players and picks for years and this is the year he’s planning to pull the trigger, so if Nader doesn’t stick with the team’s D-League affiliate, he could become part of such a deal in early July when the trades start flying.