Bringing back Robert Covington would make sense for the 76ers.
The Minnesota Timberwolves forward would provide much-needed three-point shooting and defense. He would be the best player coming off the Sixers bench and could also slide into the starting sport until Joel Embiid returns from his finger injury, if need be.
Covington would be the perfect option for the Sixers. The problem is that it’s probably too hard for them to get him back.
The 6-foot-9, 225-pounder’s status as a legitimate three-and-D player would provide immediate help for a team that has failed to live up to its lofty expectations. The Sixers entered the season as a favorite to reach the NBA Finals. However, they are a disappointing 27-16 after beating the Chicago Bulls on Friday night.l They were in an equally disappointing sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
His familiarity with the coaching staff, several of the Sixers, and the city would make for an easy adjustment. It wasn’t too long ago that Covington was one of the Sixers’ leaders, but they were forced to trade him in order to get a third star to play alongside Ben Simmons and Embiid.
So on Nov. 12, 2018, they traded him, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and a 2022 second-round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for four-time All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton. The Sixers have since waived Patton and shipped Butler to the Miami Heat via a sign-and-trade deal.
Fourteen months later, Covington is a coveted target for teams in the playoff hunt leading up to the Feb. 6 trade deadline.
The Sixers and Dallas Mavericks are among the teams that have expressed some level of interest, according to reports. It’s no secret that the Sixers want to add perimeter shooting. But the Timberwolves want teams to give up a lot for the 2018 NBA all-defensive first-team selection. A league source said they would want a draft pick to be included in a package for Covington.
Minnesota was 15-25 heading into Friday night’s road game against the Indiana Pacers. It was in 13th place in the Western Conference and fading from playoff contention.
Reports out of Minnesota are that the Timberwolves won’t feel pressured into moving Covington. He has two years and $25 million remaining on the four-year extension he signed with the Sixers in November 2017.
He also fits perfectly with how they want to use the three-point shot and attack the rim. Covington averaged 12.7 points and 1.7 steals through 39 games. He was shooting 35.5% on three-pointers.
Plus, the 29-year-old has developed into one of Minnesota’s core players. Another bonus is his close relationship with center Karl-Anthony Towns, the Timberwolves’ franchise player.
That’s why it doesn’t make sense for Minnesota to move Covington.
Plus, it may be tough for the Sixers to make a deal for Covington because of their salary construction. They don’t have enough guys with middle-ground NBA salaries to make a trade fit.
To get within 25% of Covington’s $11.3 million salary this season, the Sixers would likely have to add players such as Zhaire Smith ($3 million), Mike Scott ($4.7 million), and a minimum salary player. Under that scenario, the Timberwolves would have to open up a roster spot by waiving or trading a player.
But would that package be enough for Minnesota?
Would it also demand a draft pick?
And would it want to take on the second-year of Scott’s contract if he’s included in the deal?