Will the Philadelphia 76ers make the playoffs? That’s a resounding yes. Will they make it past the first round? That’s still up in the air. While the leaders of this young team will do their best, there’s only so much Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can do alone. For a team like the Sixers to get out of the first round, no matter their opponent, they will need more than Simmons’ assists and Embiid’s rebounds — they will need Robert Covington.
Yes, the perimeter shooting of J.J. Redick and Marco Belinelli will be huge, and the defensive presence of Dario Saric will play an important role, but it will be the all-around game of Covington that will set the tone. Think about it for a second. What if the Sixers are matched up with the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James? Or they face off against the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker? The Sixers will need Covington at his best, and that’s not been the case the majority of this season, according to the Sixers Sense.
On the year, Covington has averaged 12.6 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 40 percent from the floor. Not bad numbers, but after doing a little digging, Covington is by far the Sixers’ weakest link. For a player who shoots an awful amount of three-pointers (6.9) per game, Covington is hitting just 37 percent of those attempts.
What has fans bothered is that Covington just signed a huge extension ($62 million) this season, but a closer look reveals that his numbers are the same as they were last year when he took on a bigger role in the absence of Simmons and Embiid. While the heat is indeed on, the playoffs would be the perfect time for Covington to prove his worth.
What Brett Brown and his teammates must do is continue to support Covington through his struggles, but do so with a firm hand. There’s no need to go full Kobe and Jordan on him with the screaming but just let him know they have his back. Also, Covington has to know when and not when to force the shots. He’s notoriously known for hoisting bad attempts rather early in the shot clock or when a defender’s hand is in his face. During the regular season, he may get away with it, but come playoff crunch time, he has to know when to shoot and when to kick it back out.
In the playoffs, they say that each possession counts, and Covington has the skills to make teams pay if left open. While Covington will never be confused with the likes of LeBron or Paul George, he does have a very similar skill set to both. He’s one of the few, when motivated, who can play both ends of the floor with the best of them.
With defenses set to collapse on Embiid in the post and Simmons forced to take perimeter shots, Covington will get his chances. It’s just a matter of what Covington the Sixers will get that will determine either a first-round victory or a “we’ll get ’em next year.”