SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Robert Covington is far from being the forgotten 76er, even though it might appear otherwise.
Covington falls way short of receiving the attention the other starters have. Even reserves Markelle Fultz, Amir Johnson, Jahlil Okafor, Jerryd Bayless, and Nik Stauskas are more well-known than the forward.
However, there’s no denying his importance to the Sixers’ success.
“Robert Covington [on] both sides of the ball is vital,” coach Brett Brown said.
The Sixers took a 6-5 record into Saturday’s matchup against the Golden State Warriors at the Oracle Arena. They had a five-game winning streak snapped in a setback to the Sacramento Kings on Thursday.
Covington had a lot to do with the Sixers’ impressive start, averaging 16.1 points. 5.8 rebounds, and 1.5 steals heading into Saturday’s game. The fifth-year veteran was fifth in the NBA with 41 three-pointers made, behind the Houston Rockets’ James Harden and Eric Gordon and Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry and Klay Thompson heading into Saturday’s games. His three-point percentage of 50 percent led all NBA players with at least 65 attempts. Covington, 26, has had four games where he made at least five three-pointers. He ranked third in the league behind Harden (five) and Gordon (five).
In addition, the 6-foot-9, 225-pounder usually defends other team’s best perimeter shooter. He’s also the Sixers’ most versatile defender.
“He can switch out on point guards,” Brown said. “He can guard a four-man. In a pinch, he can put a knee and an arm behind a five-man’s back.”
That’s why he is expected to receive a large portion of the approximately $15 million remaining on the salary cap if a new contract is negotiated. The New York Times reported that his salary will be slightly reduced in the remaining negotiated seasons. Covington is making $1.57 million this season.
He would become an unrestricted free agent if the Sixers don’t renegotiate or extend his contract. The organization and Covington have both expressed a desire to keep him in Philadelphia.
Covington downplayed that Thursday, cautioning the team could opt to extend his contract. If so, he’s projected to receive a four-year, $39 million deal. However, he and his agent would have to agree to that. If they don’t, the Sixers could lose him in free agency.
“If it happens, it happens,” Covington said of an extension. “I’m not too focused on that right now. I just focused on how I play on the court, because my production alone will separate me and put me in a position to where it forces their hand.”
Not bad for the former power forward, who went undrafted out of Tennessee State in 2013.
He signed with the Houston Rockets for the 2013-14 season, but spent most of that campaign with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, of the G-League.
The Rockets waived him in October 2014, and the Sixers claimed him off waivers a few weeks later.
“I’ve always been overlooked when I step on the court,” Covington said. “I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder, because I’ve been overlooked in my career. That’s what I’m used to, and everything happens for a reason.”