Photo: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Even though Joel Embiid may call himself “The Process” Robert Covington is the embodiment of Sam Hinkie’s radical rebuild.
In 2014 former GM Sam Hinkie signed an undrafted forward from Tennessee State in the middle of November that would go overlooked but turned out to be the best move that he made. That forward was Robert Covington. Guys like Covington were often whipping boys for Process, but he was the reason the Process was always the right decision. Instead of signing mediocre veteran free agents like the Evan Turner‘s of the world, Hinkie gave chances and valuable minutes to young players looking to prove themselves. And for every Tim Frazier, Chris Johnson, and Henry Sims, you can find yourself an elite 3-and-D forward. This is due to the valuable NBA minutes and reps Covington received playing for a bad team.
The transformation that Covington has undergone has been nothing short of phenomenal. Being seen as a player that wasn’t worthy of sticking with the Houston Rockets, he has transformed himself into an elite defender over the past 3 seasons and finally has a real point guard in Ben Simmons that has improved his shot drastically.
But things weren’t always easy for Covington. Just like the rebuild, Covington was much maligned at times but never stopped working. I was at a game in January of last year against the Timberwolves and Covington had perhaps the worst shooting performance of his career and he was getting booed out of the building (For the record I did not boo him it was the other ungrateful swine in attendance that night). Covington did not let this get to him as he held Andrew Wiggins to 2-15 from the field and even hit the game winner that evening. This showed me alot about the work ethic and character of Covington. It can’t be easy getting booed when you are at home but to be able to bring that sort of defensive intensity is commendable. Even though the Sixers finished with 28 wins, Covington’s defensive prowess did not go overlooked by the national media as he finished fourth in the Defensive Player of the Year voting. He even finished last season with the fifth-highest real plus-minus amongst small forwards, ranking higher than all-stars Paul George and Gordon Hayward. Albeit in a small sample size, Covington currently ranks fifth in the entire NBA in real plus-minus. The only players ahead of him are Steph Curry, James Harden, Nikola Jokic, and DeMarcus Cousins. Covington is also shooting a whopping 50% from beyond the arc and ranks fourth in the league in made threes, ahead of Steph Curry.
Covington has worked himself into the type of player that every championship team needs. He is that third best player that will lock-up your opponent’s best player while also being able to stretch the floor for your stars. Having two guys like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid that operate best around the basket, Covington’s presence is invaluable to their success as well as the success of the Sixers. When he is on the court the Sixers are 20 points per 100 possessions better. To compare, the Rockets are 14 points per 100 possessions better with James Harden on the court. Covington has proven that he is worth the $62 million contract he just signed. There has even been an argument on Twitter about who you would rather have between Andrew Wiggins and Robert Covington that has been an intriguing debate. The fact that this is even a debate shows how good of a player that Robert Covington is, and there are only a handful of players that I would move him for. That is how valuable he is to the Sixers and it is all thanks to Sam Hinkie and tanking.