Why Robert Covington is one of the Philadelphia 76ers’ most valuable pieces

Robert Covington | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
Robert Covington | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images) /

From undrafted to a league starter, Robert Covington is one of the Philadelphia 76ers’ most valuable pieces.

Robert Covington has had a long journey to and through the NBA. Undrafted out of Tennessee State University, Covington signed with the Houston Rockets on July 13, 2013. He tore up the then-called D-League, earning an All-Star selection.

Soon bouncing between the D-League and NBA, he was eventually waived by Houston in October 2014. The Philadelphia 76ers jumped on Covington, inking him to a deal on Nov. 15, 2014. He did earn himself a contract extension November of last season.

Covington had some rough games throughout the so-called 76ers’ tanking years, but he also showed glimpses of brilliance. In the shadows of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, Covington is the 76ers’ third most valuable piece. Thanks to his 3-and-D style of play, he gives himself a lot of value and versatility.

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Covington is best known for his gritty defense, as he was a 2017-18 NBA First Team All-Defense selection. In the 2016-17 season, he was fourth in the league in steals per game. Last season, he finished ninth in steals per game and sixth in total steals.

Among starting NBA forwards, Covington recorded a league best 99.0 Defensive Rating. He was also first in Defensive Win Shares among forwards, and third in steals. He can even get up to block a shot, averaging nearly a block per game in the 2017-18 season.

His offensive game struggles at points, however, RoCo is still a threat from deep. Covington paced the 76ers’ in threes made last year, totaling 203 three-pointers made. This ranks him at 11th best in the NBA. His shooting has improved as well.

Covington’s shooting percentage rose to above 40 percent this season, for the first time in his career. A major improvement was RoCo’s two-point field goal percentage. He posted his career high for two-point field goal percentage last season at 49.7 percent.

Only five starters in the NBA averaged 2.5 three-pointers per game and 1.5 steals per game during the 2017-18 season: Paul George, James Harden, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, and Robert Covington.

His overall value to the Philadelphia 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers are built unlike any other NBA team. No other team in the league can boast about having both, a 24-year old MVP candidate center, and an All-Star caliber 22-year old Point Guard, who happens to be 6-foot-10. But, they’re young players with two years of experience.

Robert Covington, however, has played in the NBA for five seasons now. His experience and age is one of the reasons why he is the 76ers’ next most valuable piece.

His three-point shooting can sometimes take over games. Covington hit at least four three pointers in 19 games last season. He scored in double-digits in 57 out of the 80 games he played.

But, the main reason behind his value is defense. I can argue that only Kawhi Leonard is a better defending Small Forward than Robert Covington. If you’re mentioned in the same defensive prowess as Kawhi Leonard, that just shows value in itself.

Here’s the real reason why he is valuable and able to stay on the floor: If his offense isn’t producing, his defense is.

Covington had three or more steals in 22 games last season.  On April 1 of last season, Covington shot 33 percent from the floor on 21 shots, but still had seven steals against the Hornets.

Often guarding the toughest matchups on the floor, Covington produces night-in and night-out. Statistically proven, the Philadelphia 76ers are a better team when Covington is on the floor, especially defensively. Defensively, the opponents have a higher turnover percentage and lower offensive rating when Covington is on the court.

His value extends over both J.J. Redick and Dario Saric, particularly due to his unmatched defense. But, Covington also hit more three-pointers than both of them. His size also grants him a little more versatility, able to play both Small Forward and Shooting Guard.

Next. 5 reasons Simmons will be better than Mitchell, Tatum. dark

Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid may be the Philadelphia 76ers’ two most valuable players, but Covington is not far behind them as the third most.