Cov. RoCo. Rock. Lord Covington. Bobby Buckets. Robert Covington is a man of many names, and while his popularity with the Sixers’ fan base can be up and down at times, it is undeniable that when he is playing at the best of his abilities, the team is taken to another level. Covington, in a lot of ways, represents the center of a Civil War amongst Sixers fandom. For some, he’s as much a part of the process as Joel Embiid and Sam Hinkie – an undervalued, blue collar underdog who matches the identity of the city. For others, he’s far too inconsistent to be worthy of the starting lineup, and his defensive prowess doesn’t balance out his shortcomings on the offensive end. In this player preview, we’ll dive into the good and bad of Robert Covington: how he did last season, what he’s done to work on his game, and what we can potentially expect from him in the 2018-19 season (and I promise I won’t ramble on about deflection rate…even though it admittedly does get me a little jazzed up).
2017-18 Season Review
If you just woke up from a coma, or were frozen by aliens in the past and just thawed out, or are a newborn baby whose decided that Sixers fandom is for them, then you’re probably wondering what kind of player Robert Covington is. To put it simply, Cov is the type of NBA player who fits a very specific role. He plays stout defense and takes catch-and-shoot three-pointers. Playing next to a premier big man (Embiid), an elite point guard (Simmons), and two other great shooters (Redick and Saric) who can put the ball on the floor makes Covington’s role vital to team success without asking him to do too much. With that said, Covington is known to go through stretches where he’s very hot or cold from the field, and this may have to do with his offensive game being somewhat one dimensional. Defenses are more worried about the likes of Embiid, Simmons, and Redick of course. Because Cov typically only takes catch-and-shoot threes, it means that he’s a simple assignment for defenders. That’s essentially Covington in a nutshell: a top tier or two perimeter defender, as the 1st Team All-Defense award would suggest, and a catch-and-shoot specialist on the other end.
Let’s take a look at Covington’s stat line from a season ago. He played in 80 games, averaging 31.7 MPG in those contests. On average, he shot 4.3/10.5 from the field, good for a 41% field goal percentage. From beyond the arc, he would shoot 2.5/6.9 per game, notching him at 36% from three for the season, just around league average. He took far less two-point field goals at 3.6 per game and making 1.8 of those, leaving him at 49% from within the arc on limited attempts. Cov only took 1.7 free throws per game, but he knocked them down at a very high rate, converting 85% of them. On the rebounding front, he brought down 0.7 ORBs a game to go along with 4.7 DRBs. In total, Covington averaged a 12.6 PPG/5.4 RBPG/2.0 AST/1.7 STL/0.9 BLK line to go with 1.6 turnovers per matchup.
Covington received a lot of criticism during the season at times because of his shot selection and the tendency to seemingly keep putting up contested shots during poor shooting stretches. When looking at the statistics of the starting lineup though, it shows that Covington attempted the least amount of field goals per game out of the first five on the court. As the prototypical “3 & D” guy for the 76ers last season, he played extremely well in the role that was asked of him and was undoubtedly a huge reason why the Sixers were able to clinch a 3-seed.
Regular Season Grade: B+
After what was a very successful regular season, Robert Covington saw his shooting numbers plummet in the playoffs. His FG% went down from 41% to 32%, and the 3P% dipped down to 31%. In the playoffs, everything is magnified, and to the 76ers faithful, that’s exactly what happened with Covington’s struggles. Fans were justifiably frustrated with his cold performances, and his one dimensional offensive skill was exploited. In some lineups against Boston, Brett Brown even opted to use TJ McConnell in place of Covington, which proved to be effective despite the drop in shooting ability.
While some judge him more harshly after those ten games (and particularly the Boston series), I’m a bit less critical. Covington played within the role that he did all season long, and shooters shoot. A ten game sample size is a lot less than an 80 game sample size. The latter shows the type of player he is, although you would like to see Covington hit his stride in the playoffs rather than going through a rut. RoCo will look to redeem himself in the postseason this year.
Postseason Grade: C
2018 Offseason Notables & Needs for Improvement
Showing off the package? pic.twitter.com/E9qNmzkCy0
— Coach (@AAG_Basketball) September 6, 2018
This offseason, Covington worked with the trainer known as “Lethal Shooter.” He also appears to have worked out with others as well. In the tweet above, you can see Covington making a difficult finish at the rim, which is a nice skill to see him refining. One can assume Covington also worked on being more consistent with his shot, but in my opinion, working on other parts of his game would allow him to get shots off more cleanly. That seems to be exactly a point of emphasis in his offseason training. In the preseason so far, we’ve RoCo put the ball on the floor more with what appears to be an improved handle. This could open up his offensive game and make him a much more difficult cover, as the ability to put the ball down and get to the rack will make defenders account for more than just the pull up. Finishing at the rim also appears to be something Covington has worked on.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) October 8, 2018
Covington going coast to coast a season ago would make Sixers fans sweat a little, but on this play, he looks poised and confident going to the hole. Another area where Covington could contribute more on offense is cutting off the ball. We saw RoCo do this sporadically last season, and he’s done it this preseason as well for a couple nice finishes. With Embiid in the post and Simmons with the ball drawing so much attention, the team can never have too many cutters for easy buckets. By expanding his offensive repertoire, Covington can see himself contributing in more ways outside of the “3 & D” mold. If he comes out on this campaign with an improved handle and finishing ability, he’ll become far more efficient and open up the shooting touch we know he has. The defense will obviously be there, so it’s reassuring to see Covington working on the holes in his game.
Performance/Stat Predictions for 2018-19 Season
I expect Covington to have a season similar to the one he did last year, albeit, with more shots at the rim this time around. Hopefully, that will open up cleaner looks from three. My stat-line prediction for Cov looks like this:
I expect his scoring output to be right around the same. With Fultz inserted into the starting lineup, there may be slightly less shots to go around for Cov, so him putting up the least amount of shots per game out of the starting unit seems likely again (and Redick off the bench will likely take more as well). With that being said, having a point guard where defenses have to account for more pick and rolls, on top of Covington potentially putting the ball down and driving more, should allow him to see some uptick in his percentages. On the defensive end, if he can stay in All-Defensive team form, the team should rank as a top overall unit in the league again this season. If Covington can implement the parts of his game that he appears to have been working on and expand, even if just slightly, his offensive skill set, this season will be considered a successful one for him as the all-team defense and league average shooting is likely to continue.
Editor’s Note: Beginning September 27 and continuing up until the start of the season, we will be profiling each member of the current 76ers’ roster. Be sure to check out our schedule below and hear what our writers expect from our Sixers players.
|September 27||Jonah Bolden||October 8||Wilson Chandler|
|September 29||Shake Milton||October 10||Robert Covington|
|September 30||Zhaire Smith||October 11||JJ Redick|
|October 1||Furkan Korkmaz||October 13||Dario Saric|
|October 3||Amir Johnson||October 14||Markelle Fultz|
|October 4||Mike Muscala||October 15||Ben Simmons|
|October 6||Landry Shamet||October 16||Joel Embiid|
|October 7||TJ McConnell|