Utah Jazz rank 2018-19: Georges Niang rises to No. 14

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 12: Georges Niang #31 of Utah Jazz handles the ball against the Orlando Magic during the 2018 Las Vegas Summer League on July 12, 2018 at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nevada. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 12: Georges Niang #31 of Utah Jazz handles the ball against the Orlando Magic during the 2018 Las Vegas Summer League on July 12, 2018 at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nevada. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Utah Jazz forward Georges Niang is locked-in to a roster spot for the 2018-19 season, but can he stake his claim on a long-term gig?

If you’re just a casual fan of the Utah Jazz, the name Georges Niang may not mean much to you. After all, the 25-year-old made just nine appearances for the Jazz last season, and most of those came at the end of already-decided games.

However, if you were an observant fan, you knew there was something different about the 14th-ranked player in our countdown.

During Utah’s 2018 playoff run, the discerning eye could spot Niang sitting behind the bench. By that time, he wasn’t even technically on the roster, but the Jazz nonetheless kept him in the loop. While Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and the rest of the crew did their thing on the court, Niang was there — watching, learning, experiencing the moment.

Clearly, it was important to the Jazz that he do so. They saw some things in him that could be cultivated and used for the greater good of the team.

Those things bubbled to the surface during summer league. He played eight games this summer between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, averaging 16 points, six rebounds and nearly three assists per contest. Niang also showed touch from distance, hitting almost 40 percent of his 3-pointers, as well as 47 percent overall.

For me, Niang’s most attractive attribute is his versatility. His coach at Iowa State, former NBA sharpshooter Fred Hoiberg, said it best in a 2015 feature on Niang from Bleacher Report. “He wasn’t a 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5,” Hoiberg said. “He was an H.” That H was shorthand for hybrid, which is a pretty sweet descriptor in the modern NBA.

In many ways, Niang has the potential to be the player the Jazz hoped they’d eventually get when they drafted Trey Lyles in 2015. Niang doesn’t have Lyles’ size; he’s generously listed by some at 6-foot-8. He’s not as athletic, either. These are the reasons he’s had to fight for a spot in the league.

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But he does have one important thing that Lyles didn’t. Namely, an insane work ethic. Niang is the textbook example of a gym rat. Even as he toured the intermountain West as part of the team’s Junior Jazz summer tour, he had his trainer, Joey Burton, with him, so he could put in work any time the opportunity arose. He’s doing everything he can to give himself a shot.

Those efforts paid off when the team gave him guaranteed money for the coming season. The question now is whether or not he can stake his claim on a roster spot for the long-term. Utah’s frontcourt is a crowded place, after all, and minutes may be hard to come by. Barring injuries, he’ll have to shine in small doses.

Obviously, time will tell whether Niang is long for the Jazz, but one thing is certain: he won’t leave anything to chance.