The 76ers got creamed by the Utah Jazz last night, in a game that was actually much tighter most of the way than you'd know from the final: Philly actually led going into the fourth (without Joel Embiid), but a rapid-fire 17-2 Jazz run to start the closing frame made the first three quarters virtually moot, leading to a 100-83 Utah victory. Sixers fans will mostly blame Jahlil Okafor for the come-from-ahead loss, and that might be fair on at least one side of the ball -- but the much more obvious culprit in this one was Robert Covington.
Covington has, for the most part, been pretty good over the last few weeks. He scored in double figures in six straight over one stretch, and in eight games (before last night) since returning from a week-long injury, he's averaged about 14 and 7 on 47% shooting -- certainly respectable numbers from our small forward. But one thing he didn't do over that period was hit from three, shooting just 25%, which is becoming a dangerously recurring trend for Young Cov.
Last night, Covington went 0-11 from the field, including 0-7 from three, many on wide-open looks. (He did get one point at the charity stripe, and it never felt more charitable.) The 0-fer drops his FG% to below 35% for the season, and his 3PT% to just under 28%. Those are bad numbers for anyone, let alone someone whose deadliness from beyond is supposed to be one of his calling cards, and considering that we're now over 1/3 of the way into the season, it's getting harder and harder to write this off as a small-sample fluke.
And it's also probably worth pointing out that Covington has never really been an elite marksman over his NBA career. He's made an impressive volume of threes over the past few seasons -- 337 combined from 2014-2016 -- but at a clip that tops out as "pretty good," hitting 37.4% in '14-'15 and 35.3% last season. That's still enough for him to be playable, but it's trending in the wrong direction, and it's not like Covington offers the Sixers a ton of playmaking or gets to the free-throw line at a notable rate -- he's notched just 39 assists and 40 made FTs on the season.
Of course, Covington's defense keeps him useful to this Sixers squad even when he does nothing on offense, and he still ranks in the top five among all SFs in defensive RPM on the season. But for the first season since Cov joined the Sixers, the team's offensive rating is now significantly worse when he's on the court than off, and his defensive contributions may no longer make up for his general brickiness. RoCo defenders would point to his college (42.2% over four seasons at Tennessee State) and D-League (37% while shooting 8.5 a game) to suggest there is a good three-point shooter at his core, but if so, he's getting further and further in the rearview, and this current incarnation is killing the Sixers' offense.
All that said, it's not like Hollis Thompson, Nik Stauskas or TLC is lighting it up from the field at the moment either, so Covington will likely get every chance possible to snap out of his funk. But the time will come not terribly long from now when we need to start figuring out whether RoCo is actually a part of this team's long-term future, and as much as the ideal version of him would suit us fine, one who misses 75% of the time he tees up from downtown just might not be good enough to justify an extended investment.