The NBA season is just around the corner, which means it’s time to renew the eternal arguments about whether “this player is better than that player.”
As a starter, Sports Illustrated does a top-100 players list before each season, and they’re up to #30 as of Tuesday morning. JJ Redick and Dario Saric landed at #62 and #54, respectively, and Robert Covington slides into the top 50 at #48 overall.
Ben Golliver wrote the blurb about RoCo in the article:
Covington (12.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.7 SPG) warps around the court like a podcast played at double speed, he relishes contact like a middle linebacker, and he shadows scorers feint-for-feint like a professional dancer. With a full season of good health and team success to his name, the 27-year-old Sixers forward has solidified himself as the NBA’s premier 3-and-D wing. His 2018 All-Defensive First Team selection was a no-brainer, as he ranked first in deflections, third in Defensive Real-Plus Minus, fifth in Defensive Win Shares and sixth in steals for the NBA’s third-best defense.
Although he is considerably older than star teammates Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, Covington stumbled badly during their first trip to the playoffs. A notoriously streaky shooter who managed to hit 36.9% of his threes during the regular season, he was yanked from the starting lineup in the second round against the Celtics when his jumper and confidence deserted him. Despite a rough May and the narrow nature of his offensive portfolio, Covington is perfectly suited for trendy interchangeable and switchable lineups. He’s satisfied filling a supplementary scoring role, and his combination of strength, length and quickness allows him to credibly defend four, if not all five, positions in smallball looks. Here’s betting that his future postseason work is considerably stronger than his 2018 showing. — BG
Okay, that’s fair.
Covington is not an amazing on-ball defender but does a lot of small things that really go unnoticed. I wrote about that ad nauseam last season.
Covington is a polarizing figure in Philly I think because he’s overrated by Process types as a fan favorite/underdog success story, while at the same time being underrated by casual fans who came back on the bandwagon last season and simply don’t watch as much basketball as the diehards.
It seems kind of strange to say that a guy can be overrated and underrated at the same time, but I think it’s hard to notice what Covington does well while it’s easy to notice what he does poorly. He doesn’t finish well at the rim and he goes cold from three while having some offensive brain farts. On the other side of the floor, he’ll deflect the ball and disrupt passing lanes and identify a pre-switch, which the average person just isn’t picking up on or valuing as much as a highlight-reel slam dunk or no-look pass.
Covington is what he is: a utility guy, a Swiss-army knife who does a lot of small things well. He’s flexible and versatile.
Is he a top-50 NBA player? I don’t know. Sports Illustrated has Devin Booker at 50, Eric Gordon at 49, and Jaylen Brown at 47, so think about those guys if you’re looking for context in the rankings. Kristaps Porzingis is listed at 52 and I don’t think anybody is out here believing that Covington is better than a healthy Porzingis, but it’s just some arbitrary list anyway.
The more important question is whether LeBron or Jordan is the greatest of all time. We’ll talk about that later today on sports radio.