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How the Philadelphia 76ers Struck Gold With Robert Covington

A season after being named the D-League Rookie of the Year, Robert Covington has evolved into being one of the best players on the 76ers roster.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

When the Philadelphia 76ers signed Robert Covington to a non-guaranteed deal in mid-November, it wouldn't have seemed far-fetched to think that his time with the team would be brief. Did he showcase an NBA-level skill set during his time in the D-League? Absolutely. Still, this season alone, the 76ers have had 24 players step foot on the court, including ten players with some sort of D-League experience. It was difficult to say right then and there that Covington's stint with the team would be longer lasting.

The forward put much of that doubt to rest as soon as he stepped onto the hardwood of the Wells Fargo Center. Nevertheless, it's taken awhile for the D-League alum to make that NBA transition.Technically not a rookie, Covington played just 37 minutes all of last season with the Houston Rockets. Instead, he spent the majority of that campaign with the affiliated Rio Grande Valley Vipers. During his time in RGV, Covington was an NBADL All-Star and D-League Rookie of the Year.

Playing in the minor league, the 6'9 prospect showcased himself as a deadly long range shooter, as he shot 37% on 8.5 attempts per game. That ability alone allowed Covington to have an immediate advantage over the opposition, given the fact that most D-League forwards are out of their respective comfort zones when guarding those along the perimeter

That same perimeter jumper helped Covington average 22.5 points per game on 43% shooting during his rookie season with the Vipers.

Though the 76ers currently rank as the worst offense in the NBA (92 points per 100 possessions) by a large margin compared to the 29th ranked Knicks (98 points per 100), Covington has made a positive impact on the team. Per NBA.com's on/off numbers, Philadelphia is seven points better with Covington on the court (95.7 points per 100 possessions), compared to when he's sitting on the sidelines (88.9 points per 100).

Just from being a consistent perimeter shooter, Covington actually stands as one of the team's most dangerous offensive weapons. Averaging just 27.9 minutes per game, Robert Covington is second on the active roster in scoring, averaging 13.2 points per game.

While the 76ers have been seemingly lauded for how they've continued to build their roster over the past few seasons, it appears as though they've have found a small treasure in Robert Covington. As Sam Hinkie and Co. try to figure out what they're doing with the future of the organization, having a cheap but yet effective player like Covington is absolutely huge.

Although there are examples of D-League alumni who have failed to catch on with NBA teams in the past, Covington is probably the textbook example of why teams should give these talented youngsters an opportunity to showcase the skills that they've developed in the NBADL.

With Covington, and to a lesser extent, the likes  ofThompson and Cannan, it appears that the 76ers have seemingly mastered the art of giving D-League players a chance on the NBA level. While it may sound ridiculous, when will other NBA organizations follow suit and try to grab the next Robert Covington?