- How did Robert Covington go from the 76ers go-to chucker to the definitive No. 3 option on the team and a potential top 50 player?
In the latest episode of the Open Floor Podcast, Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver discuss the SI Top 100 and how the Sixers' Robert Covington has gone from a rotation player and cult hero to 76ers fans to being a legit go-to third option for Philadelphia.
(This transcript has been lightly edited and condensed).
Andrew Sharp: Let's talk about a riser though: Robert Covington. He was at No. 82 (on the SI Top 100 list) behind Tobias Harris, Markieff Morris, Jonas Valanciunas and he's a guy, he might be the biggest riser of anyone on this list. So what do you think?
Ben Golliver: Yeah he might be in that conversation for biggest risers. First, I think the natural inclination of the skeptics is that he's not going to shoot 48% from 3 all season long, which I believe is his current 3-point percentage. And that is true. He's not going to do that. But even if he settles in around his career mark or a little bit higher, I think the situation in Philly has really helped him kind of display his best self and his maximum impact. I think what you're seeing is a classic case of a really solid No. 3 guy, who once he's no longer just putting out fires defensively because he's playing with bad players and he's just playing in a halfcourt defensive set flanked by two superstars—Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons—who have both been better than expected so far this season.
That's lifted his game and is really helping the audience home in on his impact. It's just so much easier for him to fly all over the court where he can disrupt the opposing team's plays when he can lock down one on one where he doesn't have to worry about whatever disasters are going on around him the past couple of years in Philly when Embiid wasn't on the court. So I think if you put Covington in a vacuum, he probably does not look as he good as he does currently in Philadelphia but certainly, he has played in that 40s type range so far this season. And that stands true even if his 3-point shooting comes down to Earth this season. But on the offensive end, I think he's really benefited from the playmaking of Simmons. I thought Simmons was going to be very good coming out of the gate, I didn't foresee this level of impact. His ability to be a playmaker kind of puts Covington into that natural role where all of his offense is kind of derived because he can't do it by himself and he's getting far less attention and less responsibility because he has better guys out there who set the table for him. It's funny because Philly has gone the full gambit from two seasons ago ... situations for him to be in to now arguably the best possible situation. Like if you were him, what combination of front-line players would you rather be playing with than Simmons and Embiid, It's almost like the perfect match.
Sharp: I mean it's pretty wild, I have a lot of thoughts on Covington. You talk about the front line. Pretty much every podcast this season I've talked about how crazy the Sixers are and how they tower over dudes and Covington is a huge part of that because he's just so big, even for his position. And like, because he basically is like a guard for them a lot of times and you watch him match up with Bradley Beal and he's three or four inches taller, he's 30 or 40 pounds heavier, he's longer. And he's a big reason the Sixers just look like a bunch of goons out there compared to just a regular NBA team.
They're all so much bigger and Covington is also, his development this year has caught me completely off guard. Like I was a Covington believer, not to the extent that Sixers fans have been. He was like a cult hero for them. But I was a Covington fantasy owner last year and so I watched his stats throughout the year and almost every night he was like 5-for-17. He had the eternal green light and would just launch 3s and it was kind of a mess. So to see him back this year and he's sort of turned into the best version of what Sixers fans thought he was. Like he was a good player but he was never on this trajectory and out of nowhere he's been hitting 45% of his 3s and guarding everyone at his position. To me, he's become a top 50 player out of thin air basically.
Golliver: Yeah, to me there were some signs of this last year but there were still some concerns. He had some streaky shooting, I think he missed some time health wise and so far he hasn't hit the cold stretch, shooting wise and it might not get as ugly as it did last year because like I said, he's got more help setting him up and so far he's had good health too. So he's absolutely a part of their core. Like when you're ranking the most important players on that roster, I think he's pretty clearly solidified his spot as No. 3. Well, I guess the Fultz question, I don't even consider Fultz a part of that team or part of the roster at this point but I guess Fultz is three with an asterisk. But you know, Covington is right there in that spot.