Robert Covington is an interesting case study in Philadelphia.
Process supporters loved the guy. He was, after all, a diamond in the rough who was pulled out of the G-League, developed over the course of several years, and then molded into a bona fide NBA starter. He earned a legitimate contract in what became a feel-good NBA story.
Anti-Hinkie types really disliked Covington, and they’ll always point out his benching in the 2018 Boston playoff series, a crop of five games that included 0-6 and 0-8 field goal lines, which resulted in T.J. McConnell being inserted into game four’s starting lineup. The Sixers lost the series 4-1 and RoCo was traded the following season.
The truth is that he was a good 3 and D player, a catch and shoot guy who worked well as defensive glue on a team that already had a couple of high-usage stars. As of January 17th, 2020, he’s now being linked to Philadelphia as a possible trade target, just one year after he was sent to Minnesota in the Jimmy Butler package.
Rival teams also say the market for forward Robert Covington has been heating up over recent days. Covington has become a coveted player, with his defensive prowess and outside shooting an ideal fit for most teams in the playoff hunt. Houston, Dallas and Philadelphia are among the teams that have expressed interest in him, but Minnesota is expected to drive a hard bargain, league sources said.
I don’t think this makes a ton of sense.
First, the Sixers already have a 3 and D/catch and shoot guy in Matisse Thybulle, a rookie with Covington’s skill set who they really like and would love to groom. Covington and Thybulle on the floor at the same time would be redundant, and playing the former would limit the developmental minutes of the latter.
Second, Philly doesn’t really need Cov’s skill set right now. James Ennis and Mike Scott also play the catch and shoot style Covington brings to the table. If the Sixers add anybody at the deadline, a Malik Beasley or E’Twaun Moore would make a lot more sense, i.e. a prototypical two-guard that can shoot but also put the ball on the floor and do something, anything off the dribble. Covington’s handle is not his strong suit, and he’s not going to drive to the rim, which is what the Sixers could use right now. Ennis, Thybulle, Scott, and Furkan Korkmaz don’t provide that. Trey Burke can do it a bit, but his minutes and his production has been iffy. Philly could really use a half-court creator next to Ben Simmons.
Third, Covington is only shooting 35.5% from three this year. When he played in Brett Brown’s motion offense alongside stretch four Dario Saric and Ersan Ilyasova, he was up in the 37% range and looked comfortable firing from deep. That’s not going to happen with Al Horford on the floor and Brett dialing up more plays in order to tweak his pace and space philosophy to fit the roster he was given. Covington’s game is rather static in the half court, and while he knows where to go in transition with Simmons pushing the pace, that’s not something that solves the Sixers issues right now.
One way a RoCo return could possibly work is if the Sixers find somebody to take Horford’s contract, which seems highly unlikely. But if you were able to move Tobias Harris down to the four, you could theoretically run out a lineup of Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Covington, Harris, and Joel Embiid. You’d still have a lot of size but a little more shooting with Covington in the fold, assuming Horford would continue to struggle in that department.
Problem is, the Sixers are already a poor shooting team above the break, which is where Cov typically takes his three pointers. He’s only tried 24 corner threes this year and his chart heavily skews to the right:
There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of differentiation in what Rob would bring back to Philly, relative to what this team truly needs.
I also think there’s something to be said about sports reunions in general. DeSean Jackson, James van Riemsdyk, etc – how often do these Philly returns work out? I’m a big believer in the idea that ships have sailed, and whether or not these trades made sense the first time around, it seems myopic to bring guys back for nostalgia alone, or simply to right the wrongs of the world (Chip Kelly/Shady McCoy/DJax).
Don’t get me wrong; Covington was a good player here, probably underappreciated by a lot of fans, but right now I just don’t think he solves the myriad issues plaguing this squad.