Tha Sports Junkies 101

Covington’s Slump: What Does It Mean?

Covington Sixers NBA 3 fyeahbballplayers via flickr


Covington’s Slump

“Big Shot Bob” lit Philly on fire during his first 14 games.  Given the more formal Robert Covington at birth, The Sixer forward scored 16.5 points per game on 50% from the field and 49.5% from three on over seven attempts per game. His Curry-esque performance, coupled with a growing reputation as an elite defender helped him secure a four-year, 62 million dollar contract extension, on November 17th.

With his life set financially and his game in top-form, nothing could go wrong for Covington. Well, of course, until it did.

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems

Unfortunately, the fourth year veteran of Sam Hinkie’s Process Era has not seen the same success since he was made a wealthy man. Covington’s points per game have dropped to 11.8 on an anemic 37.3 shooting percentage, along with 33.3% from deep. Both percentages are below league averages and Covington’s career numbers.

Covington’s Sixers have struggled to hold leads and close games this season. No doubt, his late-game antics are not free from criticism when diagnosing the cause of the frequent collapses. Three-point shots taken early in the shot clock against Memphis and Oklahoma City killed the team’s offensive rhythm. These head-scratching decisions do not exist in a vacuum. The forward struggles in these late game situations, as his fourth-quarter field goal and three-point percentages plummet to 36.3% and 29.6%, respectively.

But He Owns The Stats I Just Learned About!

Despite his extended slump, Covington still remains a darling of the analytics community.  His advanced statistics are as solid as ever. Using ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus, Covington ranks first amongst small forwards in the league. Yes, the NBA. The league that employs LeBron James and Kevin Durant, who are small forwards.

Similarly, he is second in Defensive Real Plus-Minus and 9th in the offensive version of the stat. And as always, his deflections are high, ranking second only behind Paul George in the whole league. All of these numbers point to an elite, top-notch defensive dynamo, but do they really play out that way across the board?

Put The Calculator Down

Traditional statistics are stale and lame. Grandpas use them, as do out of touch coaches like Doug Collins. They really have no place in today’s game. Especially not when there are so many complex algorithms being used to calculate a player’s worth. With that being said, Robert Covington is an elite defender based on those stats and that should be enough, right?

Not really. Especially when there’s significant evidence that some Covington’s “Elite Defender” reputation may not be all that it appears. Opponents shoot 48.1% from the floor when Covington is defending them. Of course, an argument can be made for Covington guarding opposing team’s team’s best player, which is true in most cases. However, this line of thinking fails to hold up to his opponents shooting better against him than their season averages by 2.6%.

With that being said, his opponent field goal percentage mirrors the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Andrew Wiggins, and Nick Young. None of those guys are likely to be in the running for an All-Defensive Team anytime soon. Although that alone cannot be used to entirely damn Covington’s case as a good defender, it is an aspect to consider when properly weighing his contribution on that end of the court.

Advanced statistics are a great tool to look into a player’s overall game, but it is just that, yet another tool.  It’s important to look at the totality of a player’s work without throwing away the traditional stats that have determined a value for decades.

What Is Roco? Elite? Not Very Good?

Robert Covington is a high volume three point shooter. Sometimes he looks like Curry for weeks on end, and sometimes he looks like he’s never seen an orange basket. He is a very willing and active defender who can switch onto anyone and hold his own. He is not an elite, lockdown type on that end of the floor as he has been made out to be.

What does that all mean? Perhaps the Sixers just have a solid, yet streaky, 3 and D guy. He’s paid at the normal going rate for his talents (arguably less) and he generally finds ways to make it work by playing good team defense when his shot isn’t falling. He’s been red hot before and he’s been awful before. Neither will be permanent.

Statistics are courtesy of and