Draymond Green, Jimmy Butler, Tristan Thompson. Household names now, yes, but 365 days ago the answer to those names would overwhelmingly be ‘Who?’
Now, the question is who will be 2015-2016 NBA breakout player of the year?
Let’s dive in deep to find out who will go from nice to NBA elite.
Drumroll please… And the 2015-2016 NBA breakout player of the year goes to… 76ers’ Robert Covington. Don’t know him? Get to know him.
The third-year NBA forward has taken the road less traveled – undrafted, NBA D-League. Maybe not the most glamorous, but one that screams resiliency. Wesley Matthews, CJ Watson, Jeremy Lin, ever heard of them? Very similar path, all very high-value players.
So why exactly is Covington the breakout player of the year?
Let’s first take a step back and look at the aspects currently thriving in the NBA? One of those very important aspects – the ability be a 3-and-D player. Covington’s defensive length? 7-foot-2 wingspan. check. Three-point shooting? Double check.
In the preseason alone, Covington had three games straight with three or more makes from beyond the arc while also having a game with five steals. The new Mr. 3 and D? Is it too early to start making Klay Thompson-lite comparisons? Maybe not as much of a stretch as you think.
In uncontested jump shots last season (four feet of time and space from nearest defender), Covington shot an adjusted field goal percentage of 70.9 percent, ranking him in the top 8 percent of the league and ahead of Thompson.
Basically, leave Covington a sliver of daylight and he will make you pay. Sure, 37.5 percent from beyond the arc might not blow the naked eye away, but when defenses have no need to double the post and can key on defending Covington and the three, it’s easy to see why Covington only had 25.2 percent of his attempts as uncontested looks. Insert big man presence Jahlil Okafor and add in an improved off the bounce game and Covington’s open looks and percentage will only continue to rise.
So we’ve got the three, now for the D. Covington thrives in two of the most important defensive allocation situations for a guard/wing defender – pick-and-roll and isolation defense.
In the pick-and-roll, Covington holds defenders to a 0.6 points per possession, ranking him in the top 12 percent of the league, ahead of likes of Kawhi Leonard and runner-up Defensive Player of the Year (and big money offseason recipient) Draymond Green.
In isolation situations, Covington is putting the gloves on opponents, holding them to 0.76 points per possession and a shooting percentage of 29.7 percent. Covington’s defensive value speaks for itself in the analytical statistics, but where his presence is even of more value is his ability to guard all three guard/wing positions at a high level. A dead-eye three-point shooter and an interchangeable lock down defensive asset.
High-level value? Yeah, I would say so. And then some.
I know the Sixers aren’t currently a Webster’s Dictionary synonym of winning, but a value asset like Covington is a worthy piece to build around. While Covington was on the court last season the Sixers’ offensive efficiency was 95.7 (points per 100 possessions). Without him, 88.9 ppp, one of the largest gaps among Eastern Conference players.
David Nurse is a professional shooting coach. You can learn more about him at PerfectShotsBasketball.com, the best shooting and skills basketball website in the world. You can also follow him on Twitter @davidnurse05.