It wasn’t that long ago that Sixers fans felt doom and gloom. Another star Sixer demanded out in a three-year period, the team was strapped for assets to improve, and the Sixers’ offseason as a whole was viewed as underwhelming.
However, that all changed with the James Harden trade, which brought back Nico Batum, Marcus Morris, Sr., KJ Martin, draft capital, and our old friend Robert Covington. There are several positive aspects to what the Sixers gained, but none may be as good as the heartwarming tale of Covington’s comeback to Philly.
During his tenure with the Clippers last year, Covington experienced a significant dip in playing time, dwindling down to a mere 16 minutes per game. This marked his lowest playing time since his rookie year with the Houston Rockets.
Despite being somewhat in the rotation, the season witnessed prolonged stretches where he found himself with DNP entries, never quite establishing a solid rhythm. By April, the writing was on the wall that he wouldn’t be a featured player in the Clippers’ playoff rotation.
Fast forward to today, and Covington has a limited, yet consistent role with the team that put his name on the map years ago. While this version of RoCo is much different than his first stint, he’s been contributing in various ways that simply don’t always show up in the box score.
OG Sixers fans are familiar with Covington’s famous deflections and just how capable he was in this department in the past. RoCo can be found everywhere on deflection statistics, as he’s currently 10th in deflections per game at 3.1, tied for sixth in total deflections this season at 49, and first in deflections per-36 minutes at 6.4.
RoCo may be approaching his twilight years, but he’s still been a difference-maker defensively. Through 17 games, he’s averaging a career-high in steal percentage at 4.2%, which is an estimated percentage determined of opponent possessions that end with a steal by the player while they were on the floor.
Since getting acclimated, Covington has been one of the best bench defenders in the entire league through the month of November. He’s only one of six players in the league to post 18+ steals and 10+ blocks during this time period.
Robert Covington 1 of 6 impact defenders to post 18+ steals and 10+ blocks in November— Thiago (@ThiagoPHL) November 26, 2023
Doing so at nearly half the minutes of SGA, Bam & Barnes … pic.twitter.com/jCXHaysBUR
Additionally, Covington has done a good job evolving his game on both ends of the floor. In the past year and a half he’s struggled to shoot well from the perimeter, which has led to him getting offensive opportunities elsewhere. Notably, the Sixers have effectively utilized him as an off-ball cutter, particularly when Embiid encounters double teams, yielding positive outcomes.
This is SUCH a high-IQ cut from Robert Covington. Celtics are sending Hauser from the weak side to double Embiid - good move and it means White and Tatum have to cover the back line.— Ethan Fuller (@ethman43) November 16, 2023
But Covington won't give them time to communicate, immediate attacks the new space, and scores pic.twitter.com/SSVqrS6dHf
This iteration of Robert Covington is much different than the one we saw during his first stint with the Sixers, but he’s proven to be a valuable addition to the rotation — providing length, athleticism and defensive versatility that they desperately lacked last season.
Beyond the stats on the basketball court, RoCo’s return and revitalization weave a narrative that Sixers fans truly deserve. He holds a special place as a Process hero, and now, he’s back in the city, poised to assist them in achieving the very goals they’ve been striving for since the day they traded him away.