With veteran forward Robert Covington now joining the Houston Rockets, let’s take a look at the impact he will have on the team moving forward.
The Houston Rockets’ well-documented issues at small forward are the reason the Rockets went all-in bringing in Robert Covington. The Rockets haven’t had a real defensive presence on the wing since Trevor Ariza left after the 2017-18 season. This year has been a patchwork of Danuel House, Ben McLemore and at times Eric Gordon.
The recent trade has a lot of different aspects to it, as it was the trade with the most players involved since 2000. While Golden State was originally rumored to be involved, they ultimately weren’t, as the other three teams ended up being the Atlanta Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke down the trade:
ESPN Sources: 4-team trade agreement: Houston: Robert Covington; Atlanta: Clint Capela and Nene; Minnesota: Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Evan Turner, ATL 1st round pick via Nets; Denver: Gerald Green, Houston FRP.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 5, 2020
Later, it was revealed the Rockets also acquired big man Jordan Bell but Covington is the main piece of this trade. The other main part of the trade is the $12 million additional monies that can be added to this trade. For the time being, Covington is the biggest addition for the Rockets so far during trade season.
What Robert Covington brings on defense
The reason for the Rockets’ pursuit of Covington is first and foremost regarding what he brings to the defensive end (or at least what the Rockets hope he will bring). Since a season-ending knee injury last year, Covington’s defensive rating not been great.
So far this season, Covington has a 110.4 defensive rating, which is the worst of his career. Covington’s 1.7 steals per game is tied for his lowest average in the last five years. The Timberwolves are actually playing better on defense when Covington is not on the court, as their defensive rating with him off the court is 106.2.
The Timberwolves, by any measure, are one of the worst teams in the league so of course, some of these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. Still, along with playing the fewest minutes per game of his career since 2015-16, there are some red flags that must be talked about even after the trade.
Even with these numbers, though, Covington will be an upgrade over Ben McLemore or Danuel House. He may have lost a step but for this current Rockets team, he would solidify the small forward position. Covington brings size to a position the Rockets sorely need with his ability to switch from guarding opposing point guards to small-ball centers.
What Covington brings on the offensive end
To be an effective wing for the Rockets, you need the ability to knock down 3-pointers. Covington has never been a knock-down 3-point shooter but is respectable enough to keep defenses honest. This year, Covington is shooting 34.6 percent from downtown. Something to keep in mind, though, is the team he was playing with and how he’ll likely have many more open looks with the Rockets.
Just think about how many wide-open shots everyone not named James Harden gets on a regular basis for Houston. Most players that had off years before coming to Houston have improved their overall percentages because of the open 3-point shots they get on a nightly basis. If Covington can raise his average closer to 40 percent it will be a big boost for the Rockets.
What this trade means for the rotation overall
With the Houston Rockets going more and more to small-ball, bringing in Covington especially will give them more options at the end of the game. Replace House or McLemore to close out the game with Covington, and you now have multiple plus defenders who can all knock down shots from deep.
As with any trade, there will be a learning curve, but bringing in Covington solidifies a position that is of utmost importance, especially for a team that loves to switch and play small-ball for large chunks of the game.
Given Mike D’Antoni‘s wing-heavy system, it should be interesting to see how Covington can make his mark on the Houston Rockets as they march toward the ultimate goal of a championship.