While Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are understandably looked at as the Philadelphia 76ers’ main factors in the playoffs, Robert Covington’s shooting might be the difference between a first round exit and making the Finals.
During the second year of “The Process”, with a seemingly never-ending train of D-Leaguers arriving and departing the Philadelphia 76ers, Robert Covington was the only one to prove himself as not only a legitimate NBA player, but a good NBA player who could start for every NBA team at several different positions.
His 35.8 percent 3-point shooting for his career doesn’t tell the full story. In his first few games with the Sixers, Covington became known as a fearless 3-point shooter that would take, and often make, threes regardless of how open he was or where the shot clock shood.
Over his four seasons with the Sixers, Covington’s defense has improved. Covington is only allowing 99 points per 100 possessions, which is best among the Sixers’ starters, including Embiid (who allows 99.7 points in 100 possessions).
Comparing a player’s shooting percentage for the season to their percentage when Covington is guarding them shows how good his defense is. The Miami Heat’s highest scorer Goran Dragic is averaging 17.3 points per game and making 45 percent of his shots. While Covington only guarded Dragic 29.5 percent of the time in the four games they played against each other during the regular season, Dragic only made 34.6 percent of his shots.
Breaking down Covington’s 3-point percentage by month shows the streakiness of his shooting. In October he made 46.7 percent of his threes, November 39.6 percent, December 35 percent, January 34.3 percent, February 29.4 percent, March 40.5 percent, and April—not including the playoffs—31.1 percent.
Covington shot 50 percent from behind the 3-point line in game one against the Heat in the first round of the playoffs, but that was from him taking four 3-pointers, which his below his 6.9 average for the 2017-18 regular season.
Obviously J.J. Reddick, Ersan Illyasova, Dario Saric, Markelle Fultz, and T.J. McConnell are role players whose play help or kill the Sixers’ chances of advancing in the playoffs, but none of those players have the unknown factor that is Covington’s jump shot from behind the 3-point line.