In making our NBA D-League All-Star Saturday predictions, each of the RidiculousUpside.com staffers pegged a different player to win the NBADL All-Star Game M.V.P. award.
Ironically enough, in picking one of the D-League's standout performers from this season, we each ended up omitting an NBA assignee who has been tearing up the minor league all year long.
Despite the likes of Pierre Jackson, Manny Harris, and Troy Daniels headlining some of the most intriguing call-up options the D-League has to offer, Rockets' rookie Robert Covington has really used his time on assignment with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers to begin coming into his own as a professional basketball player.
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Through 23 games in RGV, the forward has averaged 21.4 points (on 42% from the field and 35% from deep) and 9.0 rebounds, to go along with 2.4 steals, 2.0 assists, and 1.3 blocks per game. A true stat-sheet stuffer, Covington has been excelling, and it's showed. His contributions have helped the Vipers hold onto the top seed in the D-League over the course of this season.
And in an amazing shooting clinic between both All-Star teams, Covington used such an opportunity to strut his stuff and shine even brighter. En route to helping his team to a 145-142 victory, the young gun scored an eye-popping 33 points in just under twenty minutes on the court. For more, here's the official word from the NBA D-League:
Robert Covington of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, playing on assignment from the Houston Rockets, scored 33 points and added six rebounds and three steals on his way to being named MVP of the 2014 NBA D- League All-Star Game presented by Kumho Tire, won by the Prospects over the Futures 145-142 at Sprint Arena at NBA All-Star Jam Session. Devin Ebanks of the Texas Legends added 27 points as part of a balanced effort that saw seven of 10 Prospects score in double figures, while shooting 61 percent from the field as a team.
Covington, who went undrafted in 2013 out of Tennessee State, has spent most of his rookie season on assignment with the Vipers, averaging 21.4 points in 23 games. He's appeared in five games with the Rockets, averaging 3.8 minutes.
"It's a great feeling being able to play well in this game in front of our GM Daryl Morey and all these others scouts and NBA people," said Covington, whose 33 points set a new NBA D-League All-Star Game presented by Kumho Tire record. "I feel like I've gotten better during my time with Rio Grande Valley, and it's good to see the hard work paying off in a game like this."
Ebanks, who spent his first three professional seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, shot a blistering 13-for-17 from the field and looked very much like a player on his way back to the NBA at some point. Rio Grande Valley's Troy Daniels added 21 points for the Prospects, connecting on 6-of-7 from behind the arc.
Pierre Jackson of the Idaho Stampede led the Futures with 30 points to go with eight assists and four steals. The Canton Charge's Arinze Onuaku added 22 points and eight rebounds for the Futures, with Justin Hamilton of the Sioux Falls Skyforce chipping in with 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting.
Kudos to the Rockets' organization for assigning Covington back down to the D-League, so that he could in fact participate in the game this weekend in New Orleans. Someone who constantly goes back between Houston and Rio Grande Valley, Covington was with his NBA team this past week.