Over the next few weeks, Robert Covington’s name is likely to pop up a lot in trade rumors.
It already has. It seems like every few weeks, some report somewhere says a team has asked the Timberwolves about Covington. Get used to the chatter.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing to have a player a lot of teams want, and it’s easy to see why teams covet Covington.
The 6-9 forward, who turned 29 last month, has built a reputation as one of the best defenders in the NBA. He is an affable guy off the court and is a respected voice in the Wolves locker room.
Most importantly for trade purposes, he has one of the best contracts in the NBA. Another team would be getting all the above, plus someone who is a solid three-point shooter, for only about $25 million over the next two seasons — a pittance, especially when compared to some other horrible NBA contracts.
It’s one of the reasons Covington came to Minnesota in from Philadelphia in the Jimmy Butler trade.
So how is Covington dealing with the trade chatter?
“I’m not even focused on that,” Covington said recently. “My main focus is this team and what I do every day. I’m not going to get caught up in rumors or hype or whatnot. I’m a Minnesota Timberwolf. That’s all my focus is.”
There was concern coming into the season about how Covington would respond off a right knee bone bruise that caused him to miss more than half of last season. He admitted it took time to get back into rhythm.
“I’m getting back to myself a little bit,” Covington said. “I’m finally in that form where I’m starting to be more comfortable, starting to see how my body is reacting deep in this threshold of the season, and I’m doing a good job of taking care of my body and my teammates have been doing a lot as well.”
The Wolves have altered how Covington plays defense this season, turning him more into a stretch power forward than having him play the three. But he has drawn matchups recently against other teams’ top scorers, such as Houston’s James Harden. ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus metric, which tries to isolate a player’s contribution to winning regardless of who is on the floor with him, has Covington rated the ninth-best power forward in the NBA, just two slots behind the Lakers’ Anthony Davis.
He is averaging 12.8 points and is shooting 35% from three-point range. The Wolves could command a large haul for Covington, but he also seems like the perfect fit for the three-point-heavy, fast-paced system the Wolves want to run, especially because he can anchor the defense.
Saunders said when it comes to addressing trade rumors with players, he takes it on a “case-by-case” basis.
“When you’re around people as much as we’re around each other, you can read individuals to see if they need a little extra love, I guess, or extra support,” Saunders said. “But it’s impossible every time there’s a rumor or names brought up to address every single one individually. It would be one of those exhausting things for not only players, but everybody involved.”
One player Saunders isn’t concerned with when it comes to handling speculation is Covington.
“He’s a professional in terms of the way he approaches this game,” Saunders said. “His commitment to us and what we’re doing on a nightly basis has been a great example to our young guys especially. Cov is somebody I never worry about.”
And Covington isn’t sweating what might happen. He’s just glad to be back in form.
“It was a long offseason,” he said. “I made sure that I took the right steps … I took it day by day, and that’s what allowed me to get into a rhythm.”