corey seidman

What Robert Covington's new deal means for Sixers' future cap space

What Robert Covington's new deal means for Sixers' future cap space

The irony of Robert Covington's impending payday is that he was so drastically underpaid before that the Sixers were well-situated for another team-friendly deal.

And that's exactly what they got.

Covington is expected later this week to sign a four-year, $62 million contract to remain a Sixer. Per multiple reports, the framework of the deal is that $15 million will be added to Covington's salary this season, and then it will play out past this season as a four-year, $45 million deal.

What a steal.

Minutes after Adrian Wojnarowski reported the renegotiated terms, Paul Pierce reacted on ESPN. 

"This guy's underpaid," Pierce said. "He should be getting at least $80 million."

Hard to argue. Kent Bazemore got four years, $70 million from the Hawks. Tim Hardaway Jr. got four years, $71 million from the Knicks. Tobias Harris got four years, $64 million from the Pistons. 

Covington is arguably (perhaps more than arguably) the best all-around player in that group.

A healthy Covington could have surely received more money on the open market next summer, but that's where his previous contract came into play. Covington was making $1.6 million this season. The idea of immediately adding $15 million to his net worth was too tempting for Covington to pass up. Plus, he wanted to be here after helping build the foundation for the Sixers' future. His contract situation was always set up to play into the Sixers' favor.

What works so well for the Sixers with Covington's renegotiated contract is that they already had the cap space to give him his big raise this season. Essentially, this $15 million is a 2017-18 signing bonus that won't impact the Sixers past this season. What a great use of cap room that would've otherwise been wasted.

Moving forward, it is expected that Covington's salary will be between $10 million and $12 million the next four seasons. 

Next season's payroll
As of now, after the Covington and Embiid extensions and the denouncing of Jahlil Okafor's 2018-19 rights, the Sixers have about $30 million of cap space next summer. That assumes they bring back Richaun Holmes and T.J. McConnell at their low figures, and it excludes the cap holds of JJ Redick and Amir Johnson, who are on one-year deals.

That large figure — $30 million — would put the Sixers in a unique position next summer. As of now, only the Lakers (and maybe the Hawks) would have more money to spend.

That doesn't necessarily mean the Sixers will sign a star to a long-term deal next summer. The top of the free-agent class next summer includes LeBron James, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Jordan, Isaiah Thomas and Chris Paul.

Obviously, Cousins and Jordan are not fits with the Sixers. George's signing with the Lakers is regarded as an afterthought in NBA circles. Thomas and Paul don't make much sense either. That leaves LeBron.

I don't want to get too far off track, but at this point, it doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility that LeBron would at least take a meeting with the Sixers next summer. He's all about putting himself in the best position to win. He'll be 33 years old and probably won't want to carry yet another team for years. And the teams that have the cap space to add LeBron don't have pieces as talented, as young or as far along as the Sixers.

Just sayin'. Let's move on.

Beyond next season
To optimize their roster as much as possible, the Sixers pretty much have to use their cap space in the summer of 2018 or 2019. After that, they won't have enough room to easily fit in a star. 

Why?

Because they'll have to extend Ben Simmons and possibly Dario Saric by then. And once you do that, you don't have as much cap space. If the Sixers were to add a free agent first, however, they'd still be able to retain their own players with big deals. 

Think about what the Timberwolves did this past offseason, for example. Their window to spend on a free agent was closing because of the impending mega-deals owed to Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. So the T-Wolves struck this summer, trading for Jimmy Butler and his high salary because it would have been one of the last opportunities for them to add a big difference-maker.

Looking ahead to 2019, the top projected unrestricted free agents (assuming LeBron and George find long-term homes in 2018) are Klay Thompson, Butler and Kemba Walker.

Thompson is the most ideal fit imaginable for this Sixers team. He's also the most ideal fit imaginable for practically every team in the NBA.

But if Thompson's out there in the summer of 2019, the Sixers will likely be a major player. And a major reason they'll be a major player is because they have their perpetually improving forward locked up long-term on a team-friendly deal.

Robert Covington is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Sixers stats: Embiid turnovers, Simmons' length, shooting like Warriors

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Sixers stats: Embiid turnovers, Simmons' length, shooting like Warriors

Some fun Sixers stats ahead of tonight's game against the Lakers.

We'll avoid the Ben Simmons triple-double stuff that has been all over the internet all season.

The Sixers still have a lot to clean up. Today, we'll take a look at Joel Embiid's high turnover rate, Ben Simmons' defensive impact and some shooting stats that are comparable to the Warriors.

Robert Covington
• Covington is 48 for 96 (50 percent) from three. He's made one more three than Steph Curry in 25 fewer attempts. He's made five more threes than Paul George in seven fewer attempts. He's made 11 more threes than DeMarcus Cousins in 11 fewer attempts.

• Covington's shooting this high a percentage while still letting it fly often. His 3.7 threes made per game are tied for second in the NBA with Eric Gordon, behind only James Harden (4.3).

• A year after leading the NBA in deflections, Covington ranks fourth with 45. He's behind George (61), Thad Young (54) and Kent Bazemore (51).

Ben Simmons
• Simmons' length is already apparent on defense. He's contesting 4.3 threes per game, according to NBA.com, which is third-best in the NBA, behind only Jerian Grant and Anthony Davis.

• Simmons' ability to finish at the rim is uncommon, especially for such a young player. He's shooting 70 percent at the rim compared to 35 percent on his other 111 shots. That includes a 32 percent mark (24 for 76) on jump shots.

Joel Embiid
• Embiid is 30 for 90 (33 percent) on jumpers. A year ago, he was 38 percent.

• Among players who have played as many total minutes as him this season, Embiid has the eighth-highest rate of turnovers per 100 possessions (20.1 percent).

The seven players with higher turnover percentages are Draymond Green, Dwight Howard, Ricky Rubio, James Johnson, Jeff Teague, Tyson Chandler and Josh Richardson.

• Embiid's usage rate is still through the roof. When he's on the court, he touches the ball a ton. The only four players with higher usage rates than Embiid are James Harden, Kristaps Porzingis, D'Angelo Russell and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

T.J. McConnell
• The Sixers' backup floor general is averaging 8.4 assists per 36 minutes. That's more than LeBron James, Teague, Draymond, Simmons, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry, among many others.

Team stats
• The Sixers are making 12.7 catch-and-shoot chances per game, second-most in the NBA behind only the Warriors (14.2).

• The Sixers lead the NBA with 10.9 catch-and-shoot threes made per game. The Warriors are second at 10.0

• The Sixers actually have one of the NBA's worst field goal percentages on drives this season at 41.4. Only the Kings, Blazers, Bulls, Clippers and Jazz have been less efficient.

• They're still playing the league's fastest pace. That includes the NBA's fastest offensive pace and sixth-fastest average defensive speed.

• The Sixers are averaging 17.3 post-ups per game on offense and 3.5 field goals made. It's a lost art, but they have Simmons and Embiid. Both figures are third-highest in the NBA behind the Knicks and Spurs.

What Robert Covington's new contract could look like

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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.