What Robert Covington's new contract could look like

USA Today Images

What Robert Covington's new contract could look like

When the clock strikes midnight, Robert Covington will be eligible to sign a contract extension and finally begin earning what he's worth.

The timing couldn't be better. Covington, who the Sixers certainly already valued highly, scored a career-high 31 points Tuesday night in Los Angeles, drilling a crucial three with 33 seconds left then making four free throws to close out the win over the Clippers.

It was yet another stat-stuffing performance for Covington — 31 points, 9 of 12 from the field, 5 of 8 from three, 8 of 8 from the line, six rebounds, four assists, four steals. And all of this from a guy who makes his biggest impact on the defensive end.

He just keeps getting better and better, growing into one of the best possible versions of a 3-and-D player.

Covington is going to make some serious coin. Just how much?

The idea has been floated around that the Sixers could use some of this season's cap space (approximately $15 million) to give Covington a significant immediate raise as part of his new contract. It would help the Sixers down the road to pay Covington a lot now because it could allow them to pay him slightly less when they're closer to the salary cap.

If the Sixers do give Covington that 2017-18 raise as part of his reworked contract, by rule, he cannot see more than a 40 percent decrease in next year's salary. So, as pointed out by the Sporting News, if the Sixers use all of their remaining cap space this season to give Covington his immediate raise, they would have to pay him a minimum of $10 million next season. Which they would anyway.

Here are some current contracts for forwards somewhat comparable to RoCo:

Khris Middleton: 5 years, $70 million

Kent Bazemore: 4 years, $70 million

Serge Ibaka: 3 years, $65 million

Danilo Gallinari: 3 years, $65 million

Tobias Harris: 4 years, $64 million

Covington is by far the best defender of this group. From a skill set perspective, he's most similar to Bazemore, an above-average defender who can rebound and hit threes. 

These contracts are provided simply for context. A lot of it depends on the team, the fit and the cap space. Covington is a better all-around player than Gallinari (and significantly more durable) but that doesn't mean he's going to exceed the $22 million average annual salary.

This season, Covington is making just under $1.6 million. If the Sixers raise that to, say, $15 million, then sign him to a contract worth four years and between $52-56 million, the end result would be approximately five years, $70 million. That seems about right for Covington. Maybe slightly low.

The possibility exists that Covington chooses not to sign an extension and instead tests the unrestricted free-agent waters after the season. At the end of the day, every player does what's best for himself. But it would be pretty tough for Covington to turn down tens of millions of dollars given how underpaid he's been to this point. And could you really see him leaving Philly after years of building this thing up over a few million dollars through the life of a four-year deal?

Another thing to keep in mind is that if Covington were to wait it out, there just aren't many teams positioned to pay him top dollar or exceed what the Sixers can offer. As it stands right now, only the Lakers will have more cap space next summer than the Sixers, but L.A. obviously has its sights set on superstars like LeBron James and Paul George. The Sixers are just behind the Lakers, and then the only teams currently within even $20 million of the Sixers' 2018 cap space are the Bulls, Mavericks and Hawks.

Covington could certainly hold out in hopes of landing a bigger deal from one of those three teams, but the risk would seem to outweigh the reward, especially if winning is a priority for him after years spent on cellar-dwelling Sixers teams.

This is a deal the Sixers will want to complete sooner rather than later and it would be no surprise if it's announced later this week. 

The week the Sixers traded Nerlens Noel to Dallas last season, I wrote about how that deal essentially meant the Sixers were choosing Covington over Noel. That decision now couldn't possibly look better.

76ers Gaming Club announce team name, logo for NBA 2K League

NBA 2K League

76ers Gaming Club announce team name, logo for NBA 2K League

The 76ers Gaming Club is Philadelphia’s latest professional esports brand. 

Set to compete in the inaugural season of the NBA 2K League, the fresh new esports brand —  which was officially released on Thursday by Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment — maintains the Sixers' classic style, which includes seven stars circling around a bell made up of the numbers seven and six. 

“We are excited to unveil 76ers GC’s new brand identity as we welcome another dynamic sports property to the Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment family,” said Chris Heck, Philadelphia 76ers President of Business Operations. “Working alongside the NBA 2K League, we developed a brand identity that pays homage to the revolutionary origins of this city, speaks to the new Philadelphia fan and exemplifies the edge of the esports audience.”

Aggressive in its pursuit of esports investment opportunities, HBSE, already owners of Team Dignitas, a highly respected competitive esports club, bought into NBA 2K League with 16 other NBA franchises back in May. 

76ers GC joins Kings Guard Gaming (Sacramento Kings), Pistons GT (Detroit Pistons), Pacers Gaming (Indiana Pacers), Mavs Gaming (Dallas Mavericks), Cavs Legion GC (Cleveland Cavaliers), Wizards District Gaming (Washington Wizards), Magic Gaming (Orlando Magic), Jazz Gaming (Utah Jazz), Blazer5 Gaming (Portland Trailblazers) and Celtics Gaming (Boston Celtics). Also included will be the Toronto Raptors, Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks.

While 76ers GC was born to participate in NBA 2K League, it should be noted that the name “76ers Gaming Club” is void of any mention or image of basketball or NBA 2K. This leaves open the possibility of 76ers GC adding more competitive games and gamers under its brand in the future.

NBA 2K League is a professional esports league co-founded by the NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., the creator of North America’s most popular sports title, NBA 2K. Players will receive a competitive salary and benefits. The league will begin its inaugural season, featuring five-on-five competition in May, following official player tryouts and a live player draft set for March. 

Best of NBA: Thunder carry George to win in Indiana return

USA Today Images

Best of NBA: Thunder carry George to win in Indiana return

INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George made a winning return to Indiana, hitting the clinching free throws with 10.7 seconds left in the Oklahoma City Thunder's 100-95 victory over the Pacers on Wednesday night.

Steven Adams had 23 points and 13 rebounds and Russell Westbrook finished with 10 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists in his ninth triple-double this season. The Thunder have won two straight on the road.

Victor Oladipo led the Pacers with 19 points and Bojan Bogdanovic scored 15. Indiana had a chance to tie the score after getting the ball back with 15.2 seconds left but committed a turnover and then fouled George.

The Pacers' winning streak ended at four.

But the highly anticipated matchup between George and Oladipo, the key components in last summer's blockbuster trade, didn't go as expected.

George was booed loudly during introductions and every time he touched the ball. Fans only cheered for George when he was called for a foul or made a mistake and it seemed to take a toll on the four-time All-Star. He finished 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting, had two rebounds and four turnovers.

Oladipo, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, didn't have a typical night either. He was 9 of 26 with five rebounds and six assists (see full recap).

Wizards top Grizzlies in Wall’s return
WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal scored 18 points and John Wall had 13 in his return from a sore knee to help the Washington Wizards hold off the Memphis Grizzlies 93-87 on Wednesday night.

Beal scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, hitting three 3-pointers. Otto Porter Jr. added 14 points, and Marcin Gortat had 12.

Wall missed nine games, with Washington going 4-5 in his absence.

After the Grizzlies took their first lead of the night, 67-65, on James Ennis III's 3-pointer with 8:53 left to play, Washington responded with a 13-0 run and Memphis got no closer than 83-80 the rest of the way.

Andrew Harrison led Memphis with 20 points, JaMychal Green had 15 points and15 rebounds, and Marc Gasol had 15 points and 10 rebounds. The Grizzlies have lost five straight and 16 out of 17 (see full recap).

Lillard leads way as Blazers rally past Heat
MIAMI -- Damian Lillard scored seven of his 18 points in the final 3:16, and the Portland Trail Blazers overcame a 16-point second-half deficit to break their five-game losing streak, beating the Miami Heat 102-95 on Wednesday night.

Lillard, who came into the game averaging 26.6 points, had only one field goal in the first 31 minutes. But he converted a three-point play put the Trail Blazers ahead to stay, 98-95, and sank two free throws on their next possession for a five-point lead.

CJ McCollum scored 28 points for the Trail Blazers (14-13). They climbed back above .500 and improved to 7-5 on the road. The Heat (13-14) fell below .500 and dropped to 5-7 at home.

Miami reserve Wayne Ellington sank seven 3-pointers and scored a season-high 24 points. Dion Waiters added 17 points for the Heat, who were hurt by three missed free throws down the stretch.

Both teams were short-handed. Heat forward Justise Winslow left the game in the first half with a left knee strain and did not return, and guard Tyler Johnson sat out because of a migraine.

Miami was also without center Hassan Whiteside for a seventh consecutive games because of a bone bruise in his left knee (see full recap).