NBA: Robert Covington is the Unsung Star Player the Timberwolves Need

Robert Covington has silently become one of the most valuable role players in the NBA over the last six seasons. Although Covington has shown that he has the talent to be a starter in the NBA, he is rarely the first name that comes to mind when people think about the 76ers teams he used to be a part of or the Timberwolves team he currently calls home. Despite that, his value is inarguable, and if he can stay healthy, he could help fill the Jimmy Butler-shaped hole that was left in the roster last year. 

Robert Covington’s career

Robert Covington came into the league at the exact right time for a “three and D” player. After a brief stint with the Houston Rockets, Covington found a home in Philadelphia, where his energy quickly won him over with fans and teammates alike. Covington went from playing in only seven games as a rookie to 70 as a sophomore, starting 49 of the 76ers games in his second NBA season.

By 2016, however, he was a full-time starter for the 76ers, and he spent the next two years filling a need for a team whose star players were not known for their shooting. The 76ers belonged to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, but Covington’s rise with the team was not a coincidence. He consistently gave the team 12-13 points per game, five rebounds, two steals, and a block while he was starting for the 76ers. 

That persuaded the Timberwolves to pursue him when they were shopping Jimmy Butler in trade. Butler was never a traditional All-Star on a stat sheet. Robert Covington may not be the player that Butler is, but he provides similar attributes at a fraction of the cost and without the extra baggage. 

Welcome to the Timberwolves

Robert Covington might be the key to the Timberwolves early success this NBA season.
Robert Covington. | Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

After the tumultuous end to the Jimmy Butler era, Robert Covington thrived in their system and played some of the best basketball of his career. During the Timberwolves portion of his season, he put up nearly 15 points and five rebounds per game to go with his reliable defensive statistics. He shot 37% from three, as he had done in the latter half of his career, and while the team struggled, he got praise from coaches and teammates alike. 

Unfortunately, Covington’s season was cut short with a knee injury just 22 games into his tenure there. The injury required an arthroscopic procedure that also featured the removal of loose bodies in his knee, and was done at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Knee injuries are a serious matter in the NBA, and while the setback was unfortunate, Covington worked hard to rehab his knee and come back this season with a vengeance. 

Robert Covington returns to the T-Wolves

Covington was ready for the start of the 2019-20 NBA season, and he wasted no time letting everyone know he was back. Aside from the Butler drama last year, head coach Tom Thibodeau was let go midseason, and replacement Ryan Saunders put in a new offensive system that helps Covington thrive with his team. 

Through seven games, Covington was averaging 13 points per game with five rebounds. His shooting is out of this world, with him going 63% from the field to go along with 37% long-range game. With Karl-Anthony Towns playing some of the best of his career, and Andrew Wiggins having a limited, but inconsistent game, Covington has a role that is similar to that he had in Philadelphia, and is doing exactly what the Timberwolves need. 

In a league that values shooting and defense the way the modern NBA does, Robert Covington is the perfect guy to have in the middle of a team’s rotation. He can defend the other team’s star, punish them from downtown, and do all the little things that a team requiring depth desires. Health and with a new purpose, Covington could help be the difference between the Timberwolves’ success and another subpar season.