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,” said coach Brett Brown.
The Sixers are 6-5 after a 109-108 loss to Sacramento on Thursday, snapping a five-game win streak.
Covington has a lot to do with the Sixers’ impressive start, averaging 16.1 points. 5.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. The fifth-year veteran has made 41 3-pointers, putting him with some elite company in the NBA alongside the Houston Rockets’ James Harden, Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, and Houston’s Eric Gordon.
Covington, 26, is the only Sixer to hit at least five 3-pointers in multiple games this season. He’s done it four times, including hitting six on Thursday vs. Sacramento.
In addition, the 6-foot-9, 225-pounder usually defends other teams’ 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’s expected to get a chunk of the approximately $15 million remaining on the team’s salary cap when his contract is renegotiated. 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.”