For years, the 76ers thrived under the extreme versatility of Andre Iguodala: a rebounding, passing, scoring, virtuoso. However, when the Sixers shipped him to Denver in 2011, it left a gaping hole at the 2-guard position, a hole that hasn’t been filled since. An aging Jason Richardson has been hampered by two ACL setbacks, Hollis Thompson has just recovered from illness, and Michael Carter- Williams has been thrust into a point-first role. The Sixers seem to have depth with talented bigs in Joel Embiid, Nerelens Noel and Henry Sims, and have built their future around the frontcourt. But the Sixers need wing help to find their way back into playoff contention. K.J. McDaniels and Jerami Grant are both decent role players, but the Sixers need to retain rookie surprise Robert Covington if they wish to unearth their full potential.
The 76ers currently rank 21st in points allowed at just under 101 a game. However, with the steady and inevitable progression of both Embiid and Noel on the defensive end, and the stingy, relentless attack of MCW on the perimeter, it’s clear that shortage of D won’t be an issue in the not too distant future. What is concerning is the dearth of offensive efficiency. The Sixers are dead last in points scored at 89.9 per game on a paltry 41 percent from the field. The modern NBA calls for a go-to superstar, a player who can get his shot from anywhere, anytime. Covington is that guy, especially given the circumstances.
In just over 28 minutes per game, Covington is averaging 13 points on the season, more than both Grant and McDaniels, albeit with more time. However, Covington is doing it more efficiently on a higher number of attempts (11 compared to 8 for McDaniels and 5 for Grant) with a sputtering offense and a point guard who’s missed 20 percent of the team’s games. The Sixers also have no spacing. They rank second to last in 3 point percentage at 31 percent and choose to concentrate players close to the basket to compensate. Which is why Covington is a breath of fresh air, somebody to widen the ducts, to kick out when Wroten or MCW and now Frazier slashes. McDaniels has struggled from 3 on the season (29.5 percent on his tries) while Grant hasn’t taken enough (1.6 tries/game). If the Sixers can get more shooting around their main weapons, the offense will soar. But Covington is a start.
Covington has also held his own and then some on the defensive end, posting an impressive 1.4 steals per game, including 7 in a January loss to the Cavs, more than both Grant and McDaniels. Not to say the latter aren’t as impressive, but their defensive endeavors are more ancillary. McDaniels and Grant are block specialists, averaging 1.3 and 1.1 per game respectively, something that is more than appreciated, but not needed for the team to thrive. The Sixers are after players who can create turnovers, something that’s been a strong suit for the team in the past and Covington fits that bill beautifully.
But all of this can be boiled down to one number, the field goal percentage, the steals, the blocks, the threes, free throws, etc. Player Efficiency Rating is the two-way determinant of overall contribution to a team. The higher the number, the better the player Covington is 14.86, hovering right around the average of 15. McDaniels is 10.86. Grant is 10.61. Even being the eldest at 24, Covington’s future is bright. He may not ever be a bona-fide star, but he’s a mainstay on this talented 76er team, a player to keep for years to come.