Four years ago, Robert Covington went undrafted out of Tennessee State in the 2013 NBA draft. He signed with the Rockets on a summer league contract, and impressed them enough that they signed him to a multi-year contract. He played mostly in the D-League for the next season until being released by the Rockets before the 2014 season. The bottom dwelling Philadelphia 76ers took a chance on the young player, and it has panned out ever since. But now that he is an upcoming free agent after this season, the Sixers have a big decision on their hands.
When Covington was originally brought in, most people thought he was a “Process” player to help them tank. But to everyone’s surprise, he has been a solid player that has carved out a role on a struggling roster. During his first season with the Sixers, he shot 37.4% from three and averaged 13.5 points per game. At the time Covington had yet to figure out how to use his athletic build to stand out on defense. He finished that season with a total of 2.3 defensive win shares.
The next season, his three-point percentage dropped to 35.3%, but his defense kept improving. He improved his STL% from 2.5 to 2.7. He was finally starting to find a spot on the roster, and that trend continued into the 2016-17 season. His three-point percentage dropped again to 33.3%, but his defense kept improving. He ended with 3.2 defensive win shares. His STL% improved from 2.7 to 2.9. His block percentage has been trending up as well since his rookie season. One of Covington’s strengths is his quick hands which enables his abilities to get steals.
Covington is going to be a free agent after this season. But, Covington can’t sign an extension with the 76ers until November 15. The “Process” is finally starting to work, and the Sixers would be wise to keep Covington around.
Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons are both going to be in the Sixers starting lineup this year. With both of them playing guard on offense, along with JJ Redick, the 76ers need someone who can guard every position. Fultz and Simmons are both strong defensively, but there are still questions. It is a good sign for the Sixers that they have an All-Defensive player to take the pressure off of two exceptional offensive players.
Offensively, Covington should be able to expand his game, now that he is not one of the primary offensive options. With Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Joel Embiid, and JJ Redick all playing, Covington should get more open looks.
Covington will probably be requesting between $15-20 million dollars per year, and he is definitely worth every penny. While he might not be the flashiest player on the court, he is a key piece to the Sixers success, and keeping him is a must.