The 76ers can exhale and their fans can continue to trust the process.
After landing awkwardly on his ankle, forcing him to have to be carried off the court Saturday in an NBA Summer League game in Las Vegas, x-rays revealed No. 1 overall draft pick Markelle Fultz will only be out one to two weeks.
Their plan to feature the former University of Washington standout along with 2017 all-rookie first-team choices Joel Embiid and Dario Saric as well 2016 top pick Ben Simmons, next season remains in tact. Heck, the talented quartet already has a nickname—F.E.D.S.—based on their initials. Acquiring sharpshooter J.J. Redick, and forward Amir Johnson to make a real push at their first postseason birth since the 2011-12 season.
In a watered-down Eastern Conference that’s seen the departure of stars such as Jimmy Butler (now with the Timberwolves) and Paul George (now with the Thunder) leave playoff teams, the Bulls and Pacers, Philadelphia has to like its chances.
However, the new additions could likely mean a new role for Tennessee State product Robert Covington. Along with the other, more high-profile moves, the 76ers also exercised the 2017-2018 option on Covington’s contract before to ensure the 6-9, 215-pounder didn’t the open market.
The 26-year-old averaged 12.7 points, logging an effective field-goal percentage of 50.1 percent, and 5.6 rebounds while playing a career-high 31.6 minutes per game in 2016-17. Retaining his services for next season at $1.58 million was a no-brainer.
Since coming into the league four years ago, Covington, who began his career with the Rockets before going through several stints in the NBA D-League, has become one of the league’s better “3-and-D” specialists. He started all 67 games he played in last season and has started 116 of the 134 contests he’s been available for the past two seasons.
In February and March, before a torn meniscus, which required surgery to repair, ended his season eight games early, Covington was going for 16.15 points per game. During that 23-game stretch, he also shot 42.65 percent from the field, including 37.2 percent from 3-point range, and grabbed 7.4 rebounds a night.
However, it’s hard to imagine Covington starting in 2017-18.
In a pair of summer league games in Utah, Fultz looked every bit the future all-star he’s projected to averaging 20 points on 46.9 percent shooting to go along with 3.5 assists and three assists. Redick, who they inked to a one-year $23-million dollar deal, will likely occupy the other guard spot. That could force the 6-11 point guard Simmons to small forward while Saric (12.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Embiid (20.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.5 bpg) hold down in the frontcourt. Nonetheless, Covington should remain in coach Brett Brown’s rotation. Barring injury, he’ll undoubtedly cash in next summer, when he’s an unrestricted free agent, whether he remains in Philadelphia or not.
That’s not too shabby for a guy who wasn’t taken at all in the 2013 draft.