Since joining the Houston Rockets, Robert Covington has nearly tripled his career pace for blocking shots, and it’s bolstering their defense immensely.
When the Houston Rockets traded Clint Capela away in exchange for Robert Covington, it was assumed that their interior defense would suffer. At 6-10, the Swiss center had been the anchor of the defense for years, leading Houston in blocks per game at 1.8 at the time of the trade.
Since the Rockets were losing three inches in the deal, it would make sense if the Rockets’ shot-blocking took a significant hit with it’s new 6-7 and under rotations. Covington hasn’t allowed that to be the case at all, however. RoCo has been hosting his own block parties over the six games he’s played with H-Town, and the team is benefitting in many ways, going 4-2 over that stretch.
The seven-year veteran has tallied two four-block games as well as games with three, two and one block. While it’s a small sample size, these numbers have his blocks per game average at 2.3. That number, if compared to the top shot-blockers in the league, would have Robert sitting at fourth in the league in blocks per game, between Brook Lopez (2.5) and Kristaps Porzingis (2.0).
Obviously six games aren’t enough to crown RoCo as the next Dikembe Mutombo, but considering his career average has been 0.8 to this point, that big of an increase is certainly worth discussion.
Rockets’ insider Alykhan Bijani shared more about the impressive defensive season Covington is having so far:
Robert Covington has 4 blocks in each of the past two games, one of 4 players (Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, Jonathan Isaac) averaging at least 1.50 steals per game & 1.00 blocks per game this season. He has hit 4+ 3FGM in 3/5 games with Houston (only 8 times in 48 games w/ MIN) pic.twitter.com/YxFI4DmqoI
— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) February 22, 2020
There are two aspects that make what Covington is doing so far impressive: the guys he is blocking and the variety in which he’s swatting those shots away. In the recent 120-110 win over the Utah Jazz, all three of his blocks were against the 7-foot-1 Rudy Gobert.
Covington is sneaky in both his wingspan and how quickly he can get off the floor. Because of this, guys that are four or five inches taller either don’t see him coming or underestimate his ability to get to their shot.
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As he showed against Gobert, he also excels when being the help man in the paint. RoCo has remarkable anticipation for where the ball is going at any given time, and once he makes up his mind, he’s getting to that spot in a flash. So why is Robert having so much more success blocking shots as a Rocket than his stints in Philadelphia in Minnesota?
Well, quite simply put: He has to. With the Rockets not playing any classic bigs, their defense is completely predicated on switching everything, being quick and playing team defense near the basket.
RoCo has never been in a system that requires as much interior defending from him, so this situation could be a revelation for everyone of just how capable a defender he is inside.
Still, though, teams are seeing the new-look Rockets for the first time, so there’s undoubtedly a learning curve and adjustment period when it comes to dealing with their frenzied defense. Given that only six games have passed with Covington in the lineup, it’s fair to assume opponents will adapt to his abilities sooner than later.
Playing this style for 48 minutes is still unprecedented, though, so the case could very well end up being one of opponents learning too little too late. One thing is for sure: this team is noticeably more dangerous with Robert Covington anchoring the paint.
From centers to power forwards, no one is safe from Robert Covington’s block parties and if that trend continues, the NBA is in trouble.