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Can Robert Covington's Hot Hand Last?

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Covington has been an excellent shooter over the past several weeks, but he's taking a lot of contested shots. How can the Sixers keep him going?

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
After a solid first year with the 76ers the 2014-15 season, Robert Covington's second year with the team has been a little bit more rocky than most anticipated. He was absent from nine of the Sixers first ten games due to a knee injury, missed his first 18 attempts from beyond the arc, and endured a brutal shooting drought through most of December.

But things have been looking up for Covington since the New Year (and after he cut his mohawk). In the month of January, he's averaging 11.8 points on 40.6% from the field, and 42.3% from beyond the arc on 6.5 attempts per game. Philadelphia has been desperate for a perimeter shooting threat to take some pressure of Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel, and Covington's resurgence from the outside has played a large part in the team's recent success.

Covington's bread and butter has always been in catch and shoot situations, and he's getting up those shots at a ridiculously high rate, and with a lot more success than at the start of the year. It's good to see that he still has the confidence to pull from deep despite his struggles this year.

Games Played 3PT Catch and Shoot Frequency 3PT%
2014-15 Season (70 games) 49.3% 39.5%
Oct. 28 - Dec. 31 (26 games) 47.9% 34.7%
Jan. 1 - Jan. 26 (12 games) 67% 46.5%

What's maybe most surprising about Covington's re-discovered shooting stroke is that he's knocking down shots when tightly contested. NBA.com defines a "tight" defender as within two to four feet of the shooter, and over the past 12 games over 32% of his three-point attempts have come with a defender right in his grill.

Games Played 3PT Frequency Over Tight Defender 3PT%
2014-15 Season (70 games) 16.7% 33.9%
Oct. 28 - Dec. 31 (26 games) 14.3% 29.7%
Jan. 1 - Jan. 26 (12 games) 32.1% 44.1%

Philadelphia has always struggled to get Covington open looks since he joined the team, and provided he continues to take well defend outside shots, it's expected that we'll see some regression in his three-point shooting percentage. While the Sixers have used some elevator doors sets (the hyperlink shows some old elevator doors the team ran two years ago) to free up guys like Hollis Thompson and Nik Stauskas, Covington has not had that same luxury for whatever reason.

The Sixers have experimented with some other basic plays to get Covington some easier looks during the course of some recent games, with decent success.

Here, the Sixers run a simple slip screen out to the wing, confusing Tim Hardaway Jr. (who was expecting to switch onto Kendall Marshall) and Shelvin Mack (who just looks entirely lost), and resulting in a pretty open look for Covington.


Same thing again, but from a different angle. Covington feigns like he's going to set a screen for McConnell. Patterson freezes to help on the Sixers point guard, and Joseph has no idea Covington is there, so he sticks with McConnell. It's just enough time to get Covington a good look from the top of the key.

Philadelphia can certainly attribute wins like Tuesday's to Robert Covington's perimeter shooting, but they'll need to focus on getting him easier looks so he can continue to contribute at a high level.

All stats and video courtesy of NBA.com.