Sixers: Is Robert Covington’s Time Coming to an End?

Apr 10, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Robert Covington (33) looks to pass during the third quarter of the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Wells Fargo Center. The Milwaukee Bucks won 109-108 in OT. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 10, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Robert Covington (33) looks to pass during the third quarter of the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Wells Fargo Center. The Milwaukee Bucks won 109-108 in OT. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports /

As things get more crowded in the Sixers locker room and competitions for playing time become more fierce, Robert Covington will be left to ponder exactly what his role with the team will be this season.

This Sixers team is poised to look like a shadow of what last season’s 10-win team looked like; with very few players knowing they have guaranteed minutes or a role with the team. When mentioning guys like Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and Gerald Henderson it’s pretty much assumed that they will all be playing big minutes every night despite being newcomers to the roster.

While the Jahlil Okafor/Nerlens Noel situation continues to play itself out, it’s also known that it’s quite possible one of those two isn’t on the roster come opening night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Joel Embiid‘s minutes will also be in question all season as the team has fully stated their intention to slowly ease him back into the game, with management confirming last week that he will not be playing on back-to-back nights. Additionally, it seems the team has faith in guys like Jerami Grant, Sergio Rodriguez, Hollis Thompson, and Nik Stauskas.

So assuming one of Okafor/Noel gets traded, that leaves a rotation of 10 players playing regularly, which is more or less standard in the league. The aforementioned players leave the team with a very nice mix of strength and skill down low, versatility in the backcourt, and some guys that can shoot. One player, however, was not mentioned. That is the man potentially entering his 3rd year with the Sixers, Robert Covington.

Covington had a very clear role with the team last season, and that was to separate the floor and provide some much needing outside shooting to the ranks. While this year’s team isn’t necessarily flushed with shooting talent, last year’s team was even more stripped of talent, which made Covington a premium player for them last term.

But now that the team has added some much needed shooting, what does the role become for a guy who’s supposed to be lethal from 3 and only shot 35% from downtown last season? The personnel on this team leaves Robert in a very strange place.

No one is going to say that Covington is the most deserved player to be cut or traded before this season, but the additions around him have made his spot on the team in serious question. Someone that averaged 13 and 6 last season is never going to be an easy player to walk away from, but it’s something that might be in the team’s best interest at the moment.

At 6’9″, some forget that Covington’s true position is at the 4, but that’s clearly a position he won’t be getting a look this year. So automatically the team will be going into a 3rd straight season of having a PF getting big minutes at the SF, which is exactly why they made some of the moves they did.

As said, that leaves Covington’s only real value at small forward. With the impressive depth the Sixers have at the 2,3, and 4 positions, Covington might be one of the few odd men out. When the team wants to go small, they could roll out a 1,2,3 of Rodriguez, Bayless, and Henderson, or Bayless, Stauskas, and Thompson.

The team has an even bigger plethora of options when they want to play big, for obvious reasons. The 3,4, and 5 could be any of the following; 1) Simmons, Saric, & Embiid, 2) Simmons, Okafor, & Embiid, 3) Grant, Okafor, & Embiid, 4) Grant, Simmons, & Okafor, 5) Saric, Noel, and Embiid (I’ll throw Nerlens in one of these even though I don’t believe he will be with the team much longer).

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Right now, this Sixers team could use a 2 or 3 that has those slashing abilities and can get to the rim with grace, something Covington is known to be weak in. If the Sixers don’t have any sort of interest in retaining Covington after his deal is up next year, they should look to the market to see what his value is around the league.

There’s teams in the league who could use Covington’s skill set much more than the Sixers could right now. The Sixers don’t look like they have the makeup of a true contender for another two years or so, right when Covington’s contract expires. They will either run the risk of letting him walk for nothing in two years, or overpaying him in two years to keep him around when other, more important players will need their contracts dealt with. This will also limit their ability to sign potential big money free agents.

Robert Covington has value in the NBA, but his fit with the 2016-17 76ers is too much of a square peg in a round hole. Covington’s best fit on this team is as a makeshift SF who will be almost strictly sitting on the perimeter shooting 3’s. With the personnel this team has, they have and will continue to need players who are talented at many facets of the game. The team now has one of the most promising players in the last few decades at the 3 in Ben Simmons, and other players that they can move around to the position such as Dario Saric, Hollis Thompson, Jerami Grant, and Gerald Henderson in stretch situations.

Next: Noel and Okafor Pairing Can Still Work

When considering the potential value of trading Covington either before or during this season, when his trade value is the highest (before the last season of his contract next year), it’s important to think of the better fits for the team they could possibly acquire. If they acquire a slasher that can get to the rim, and possibly a draft pick, then they will have done very well. Robert Covington is a good NBA player that certainly has a home in this league, it’s just not looking like Philadelphia is that long-term home.