Philadelphia 76ers rookie Ben Simmons has been incredibly exciting this season. But Joel Embiid and Robert Covington deserve credit, too.
When ESPN released their first Real Plus-Minus of the 2017-18 season, some may have been surprised to have seen Covington ahead of some of the best players in the league. Embiid also ranked remarkably high as well.
Derek Bodner wrote about how important these two players have been for Philadelphia so far this season (via The Athletic):
“The Sixers have outscored opponents 502-411 when both Covington and Embiid have been on the court, been outscored 902-1012 with either on the bench.”
Embiid and Covington have the highest net rating of all possible two-man lineups in the Eastern Conference, via NBA.com. Their combined Player Impact Estimate is currently the second-best in the league, behind just Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.
Their incredible scoring prowess has been unmatched in recent franchise history, as prior to last night, two players on the 76ers have not scored more 30 points in a road game in more than 11 and a half years.
Another aspect of the game where they thrive is rebounding. Their 55.8 percent rebounding percentage trails just teammates Dario Saric and Ben Simmons for the best in the East as well.
As noted by basketball analyst Danny Leroux, Covington plays better on defense when he is alongside Embiid. The 6-foot-9 forward averages 2.42 steals and 1.29 blocks per 36 minutes while playing with Embiid but 1.15 steals and 0.57 blocks when Embiid is not active.
Head coach Brett Brown has noted the growth Covington has had as a defender (via Sports Illustrated):
“He came in just sort of as a spray-it-up, catch-shot, long-ball three guy. And he helped us coach him to being a two-way player, that elusive two-way player. And now he’s for real.”
Covington has evolved into one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA and has been vital to Philadelphia when he’s on the court.
When he and Embiid are running the floor at the same time, their team can feel unstoppable.