Robert Covington to Play a Big Role in the Philadelphia 76ers Offense


The Philadelphia 76ers’ offense will be better this season than it was in 2014-2015. That is basically a given, because it couldn’t get much worse last year.

The 76ers finished with the worst offensive rating in the league last year, hovering around a historically inept 90 points per 100 possessions, before a late surge propped them up to 93.0, per To not improve on that mark would be absurd, and it should improve a lot simply by virtue of Nerlens Noel, Hollis Thompson, and Robert Covington having another year of experience, and the additions of Nik Stauskas, who should be a better shooter this year, and Jahlil Okafor, a future sorcerer on the low block.

However, how good the offense gets next year is going to rely a lot on a few factors. The largest is of course the impact of Okafor. Okafor doesn’t need to hit high bench marks as a post scorer; if he can score 14-15 points per game, hit 42-44 percent from the post and 45-46 percent from the field, and just not turn the ball over 200 times, he will be enough of a threat to warp spacing to open things up from the outside, even in year one.

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Noel developing even more as a pick-and-roll threat and rebounder would also help, as would good point guard play, although one of those is more sure to happen than the other. But beyond the obvious factors at play, one sticks out as especially important, and that is the change in the role of Robert Covington.

Covington was awesome for the Sixers last year. After getting waived by the Rockets in training camp, Covington joined the Sixers two weeks into the season, and became a valuable player, starting 49 games and averaging 13.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 37.4 percent from three. Splitting time almost evenly between small forward and power forward minutes, Covington was a huge help to the Sixers’ offense, because he was perhaps their most consistent three-point shooter over the course of the season, and helped create spacing for the offense, along with Hollis Thompson, by consistently moving off ball and allowing the team to run out more perimeter players at once around Noel. Granted, those perimeter players were often guys like JaKarr Sampson and Ish Smith, but still, the idea was there.

Covington’s role is going to have to adapt this year. With the signing of Carl Landry and drafting of Jahlil Okafor to add to the already present frontcourt duo of Nerlens Noel and Furkan Aldemir, the Sixers have a good amount of depth on the interior already.

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With Jerami Grant potentially grabbing more power forward minutes in year two, and the potential for Richaun Holmes to make the team, minutes at the four might be far more scarce next season for Covington. He’ll still get some minutes, sure, because he was still really effective as a small-ball four next to Noel, and the Sixers would be wise to use that frontcourt this season in bench lineups. But the bottom line is that between the likely Noel/Okafor starting combo and Landry or Grant playing with either guy, Covington’s going to play a lot more than 54 percent of his minutes at the three.

And that adjustment, while probably not world-shattering, is going to be interesting for Covington moving forward. Landry and Okafor will help the offense, but they’ll create spacing through sucking in defenders to the interior, which will be much different from last season, when the Sixers’ best interior threat was a Noel post-up, and the Sixers had to attempt to create space through ball movement and penetration from their guards. And because Okafor is just a rookie and Landry is, well, only Carl Landry, the spacing this year could be cramped because that ideal of two interior threats opening things up for shooters and vice-versa probably won’t be fully realized this season.

But that’s where Covington makes an impact. If he can adapt his role without losing effectiveness as a shooter, he’ll help create a little space for his teammates to work, even if it’s just a marginal amount. He’ll likely take more threes this year, and do less work off the bounce, which will be a change, but could be for the better.

If he can hit around 37-38 percent on threes this year at higher volume, while operating more from traditional lineups, he could help make everything a little more cohesive for Philly this year as they transition to a more post-based offense with Okafor at the helm. If the Sixers can at least pull themselves up to slightly below average offensively, I expect Covington to be a significant reason why.

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