Robert Covington

Simons, Stanley, Toppin To Compete In Dunk Contest

Anfernee Simons of the Trail Blazers, Cassius Stanley of the Pacers, and Obi Toppin of the Knicks will compete for the annual Slam Dunk title at halftime of the All-Star game on Sunday at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, the NBA announced in a press release.

Simons, a 6’3” guard, is averaging 8.2 PPG in his third NBA season. Stanley is a 6’5″ rookie guard on a two-way contract after being selected in the second round last fall. He recorded a maximum vertical leap of 44 inches in the 2020 draft combine. Toppin, a 6’9″ rookie forward and lottery pick, is averaging 4.6 PPG in 25 games off the bench.

The 3-Point Contest, which will be held prior to the game, has a lot more star power. Suns guard Devin Booker and Warriors guard Stephen Curry, former winners of the long-ball contest, head the list of participants. The Celtics’ Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the Bulls’ Zach LaVine and the Jazz‘s Donovan Mitchell round out the six-man field.

The Skills Challenge, which will also be held prior to the game, also has plenty of All-Star firepower. Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and Suns guard Chris Paul head that six-man listKnicks forward Julius Randle, Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis, Magic center Nikola Vucevic and Trail Blazers forward Robert Covington round out the field.

Northwest Notes: Hill, Campazzo, Covington, Porter Jr.

Thunder guard George Hill‘s right thumb will remain in a hard cast for another week or two, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman tweets. Hill underwent surgery on February 2nd. He hasn’t played since January 24. In 14 games this season, all starts, he has posted averages of 11.8 points and 3.1 assists. Hill is a trade candidate with the Sixers among the teams reportedly interested in the veteran.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets backup guard Facundo Campazzo and rookie Markus Howard have been added to the team’s injury report due to contact tracing, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Both players are likely out through the All-Star break, though the Nuggets could appeal. Campazzo is doubtful to play against Chicago on Monday. He’s averaging 5.5 PPG and 2.3 APG in 16.3 MPG in his first NBA season.
  • Trail Blazers forward Robert Covington, the NBA’s lone player from a Historically Black College and University, is expected to take part in the Skills Challenge prior to All-Star Game, according to ESPN’s Marc J. Spears. Covington attended Tennessee State is the only active player from a Historically Black College and University. The league is highlighting HBCUs on All-Star Weekend.
  • Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. is establishing himself as part of a Big Three with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, Singer writes in a separate story. The young forward is averaging 16.0 PPG and 7.8 RPG over the last six games and is focusing on trying to become a more complete player.

NBA GMs Vote Lakers As Offseason Winners, Title Favorites

The NBA’s general managers liked the Lakers‘ offseason moves and are bullish on the team’s chances to repeat as champions in 2020/21, as John Schuhmann of NBA.com writes in his annual survey of the league’s GMs.

An impressive 81% of the responding general managers picked the Lakers to win the championship in 2021, which is the third-highest percentage any team has received since Schuhmann began conducting his annual GM survey 19 years ago. The Clippers ranked second at 11%, while the Nets and Heat received one vote apiece.

Meanwhile, the Lakers (37%) beat out the Suns (22%) and Thunder (15%) in the voting for best offseason roster moves. The Hawks, Bucks, and Sixers each received two votes, while the Trail Blazers got one too.

Here are a few more of the interesting responses from Schuhmann’s GM survey, which is worth checking out in full:

  • The Suns‘ acquisition of Chris Paul (44%) and the Bucks‘ trade for Jrue Holiday (33%) were voted the moves that will have the biggest impact this season. The Clippers‘ signing of Serge Ibaka (15%), the Pelicans‘ deal for Steven Adams (11%), and the Trail Blazers‘ trade for Robert Covington (11%) were the front-runners for the most underrated offseason player acquisition. Gordon Hayward‘s $120MM contract with the Hornets (54%) was voted the most surprising offseason move.
  • While NBA GMs view Hornets guard LaMelo Ball (39%) as the favorite to win Rookie of the Year over Warriors big man James Wiseman (29%), Wiseman received the most votes (36%) among this year’s rookies to be the best player in five years, followed by Ball (25%). Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton, meanwhile, was voted the biggest steal in the 2020 draft (43%).
  • Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and Mavericks guard Luka Doncic were the top choices as the player GMs would want to start a franchise with today. They each received 43% of the vote, with Lakers stars Anthony Davis and LeBron James and Pelicans youngster Zion Williamson also picking up votes.
  • Speaking of Williamson, he helped the Pelicans receive the nod for the team with the most promising young core (41%). The Grizzlies (22%), Hawks (11%), Celtics (11%), and Nuggets (11%) also got multiple votes.

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Bogdanovic, Green, Nuggets

The Trail Blazers were aggressive about seeking out roster upgrades this offseason, trading for Robert Covington and Enes Kanter while signing Derrick Jones in free agency and bringing back Rodney Hood on a new deal.

According to Jason Quick of The Athletic, a push from Damian Lillard provided president of basketball operations Neil Olshey with some extra motivation as he completed those transactions. Lillard said he’s been “transparent” with Olshey about wanting the team to make roster moves that give the Trail Blazers a “real shot” at winning a title.

“That’s just what I’ve been communicating to him: ‘Come on man, let’s really make a run for it. Let’s go for it,'” the Trail Blazers’ star point guard said. “Let’s not be the organization that says, ‘Oh, we’ve made the playoffs this many years in a row. We’ve got a good culture, we’ve got this …’ Let’s put ourselves out there and try to do whatever we can do to give ourselves a real shot. Let’s try to bring the glory back to Portland.”

Covington and Jones will likely open the regular season as the Trail Blazers’ starting forwards, head coach Terry Stotts said on Tuesday, per Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com. That would mean Carmelo Anthony coming off the bench, which is something the team discussed with him before he re-signed.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic, who is coming off of wrist surgery, said on Tuesday that he’s “really happy” with where he’s at in his recovery process, though he admitted he’s not sure whether or not he’ll be ready for the start of the season. Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune has the details.
  • The Clippers, Lakers, Spurs, Sixers, and Bucks were among the teams that had interest in JaMychal Green in free agency, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post, but the veteran forward ultimately chose the Nuggets. Green cited the Nuggets’ unselfish play, young talent, and tenacity in explaining his decision. “Blowing a 3-1 lead, they just fought,” Green said, referring to Denver’s Western Conference Semifinals win over his Clippers. “It just showed you the type of heart they had.”
  • The Nuggets experienced more roster turnover than usual this fall. Now, facing an unorthodox training camp and preseason schedule, head coach Michael Malone says it’ll be a challenge to get everyone integrated and comfortable before the regular season begins. “Continuity has been one of our greatest strengths for the last few years, and this is probably the first time in my five going on six years we’ve had this much of a turnover,” Malone said, according to Kendra Andrews of The Athletic. “So that will be the biggest challenge.”

Blazers Notes: Jones, Carmelo, Covington, Elleby

Before he committed to the Trail Blazers, Derrick Jones had free agency meetings with the Kings and Timberwolves, as Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times details in an interesting blow-by-blow account of Jones’ night on November 20.

According to Abrams, Jones mostly listened and nodded during Sacramento’s eight-minute pitch, but was more engaged and asked questions on a call with Portland that lasted nearly an hour. Jones seemed ready to commit to the Blazers on the spot, but his agent Aaron Turner said they’d let the team know by the end of the night.

Jones was also impressed by the Timberwolves’ pitch that came next, but was still leaning toward Portland’s offer. The Blazers had said they’d be talking to other free agents over the course of the night and would sign the first one that called back to agree to their offer, so Jones had to make a fairly quick decision, Abrams writes.

After Turner called back the Wolves to see if they could increase their offer at all, he told them Jones would be signing elsewhere, and contacted the Blazers to accept their two-year offer worth the full mid-level.

“Getting a guy like Derrick — an elite athlete, protects the rim, great finisher, rates in the 80th percentile in blocks and steals — was a big win for us,” president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said of the signing this week, per Jason Quick of The Athletic.

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • Before Carmelo Anthony agreed to re-sign with Portland, he and Olshey talked about his potential role, discussing the possibility that the 10-time All-Star could come off the bench this season. “Ideally, for him, he would still start. I think that’s where his mindset is — he’s never come off the bench,” Olshey told reporters this week, per Quick. “Obviously, that will be (coach Terry Stotts‘) call. But I think the conversation was, ‘Make the decision to come back based on the reality that you will likely come off the bench.'”
  • Olshey added that he believes it makes more sense to have Anthony as part of the second unit, since he can be a featured scorer off the bench, whereas newly-added forward Robert Covington doesn’t need the ball much, making him a “perfect complement” to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
  • One of the Blazers’ top offseason goals was to find someone who can be their fourth-best player behind Lillard, McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic. As Quick writes, the Blazers believes Covington will be that player. “Now we know we have a fourth guy every night that can make a high enough impact that can give us a chance to win,” Olshey said.
  • Olshey expressed excitement about CJ Elleby, the No. 46 overall pick in the draft who has signed a guaranteed two-year, minimum-salary contract with the club. “I think he is a really good basketball player,” Olshey said, according to Quick. “I think we will all probably anticipate that this year will be an apprenticeship for him, but he will have a chance to compete every day with our younger players. He has a chance to have a very long career.”

Southwest Notes: Adams, Cousins, Wood, Haliburton, Covington

The Thunder are trading center Steven Adams to the Pelicans and it isn’t the first time New Orleans tried to make that happen, ESPN’s Royce Young tweets. The Pelicans pursued an Adams trade last offseason when the Thunder shook up their roster by trading Paul George and Russell Westbrook but the teams couldn’t work out an agreement at that time.

We have more news from the Southwest Division:

  • A workout on Monday convinced the Rockets to sign DeMarcus Cousins, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. Cousins’ workout squelched any concerns about Cousins’ health, Haynes adds. Cousins agreed to a non-guaranteed one-year deal.
  • The acquisition of Christian Wood should have a major impact on the retooled Rockets, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes. Wood, who’s headed to Houston on a sign-and-trade, should provide elite production in pick-and-rolls with two star play-makers setting him up. Wood’s perimeter shooting will facilitate the Rockets’ small lineups by provide spacing for Westbrook with his ability to attack closeouts off the dribble and finish, Feigen adds.
  • The Mavericks tried to trade up in the draft to land guard Tyrese Haliburton, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe (hat tip to RealGM). Dallas attempted to trade multiple picks to lottery teams in the 7-11 range to make that move. Haliburton was ultimately selected at No. 12 by the Kings. The Mavs also tried to work out a deal with the Rockets for small forward Robert Covington, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN, but Houston instead chose to deal him to the Trail Blazers.

Trail Blazers, Rockets Complete Robert Covington Trade

NOVEMBER 22: The deal is now official, according to a press release from the Trail Blazers. Covington goes to Portland in exchange for Ariza, the draft rights to No. 16 pick Isaiah Stewart, and the Blazers’ protected 2021 first-round pick.

Houston can now flip Ariza and Stewart to the Pistons, who will in turn send Ariza to Oklahoma City.


NOVEMBER 16: The Rockets and Trail Blazers are finalizing an agreement on a trade that will send forward Robert Covington to Portland, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). In exchange for Covington, Houston will acquire forward Trevor Ariza, the No. 16 pick in the 2020 draft, and Portland’s protected 2021 first-round selection, sources tell Wojnarowski.

While Covington isn’t the Rocket whose name has been mentioned most frequently in trade rumors during the last week or two, the fact that Houston is willing to move him indicates the team is no longer satisfied to simply run it back for the 2020/21 season. James Harden and Russell Westbrook are, of course, both reportedly hoping to be dealt this fall, so we’ll have to wait to see if this trade is a precursor to larger moves for the Rockets.

It was only nine months ago that the Rockets surrendered Clint Capela and a first-round pick in a four-team deal to acquire Covington, a three-and-D wing whom the team viewed as an ideal fit for its system. The 29-year-old did fit in well in Houston, averaging 11.6 PPG and 8.0 RPG in 22 games (33.0 MPG) down the stretch, though he struggled with his shot (.392 FG%, .315 3PT%). Covington was more reliable in the postseason, making 50.0% of his three-point attempts.

Ariza, who also plays a three-and-D role, is no stranger to Houston, having had two previous stints with the organization. Although he’s 35 years old, Ariza was still a solid contributor in Portland last season, averaging 11.0 PPG and 4.8 RPG with a .491/.400/.872 shooting line in 21 games (33.4 MPG) after being acquired in a trade-deadline deal. He opted out of the NBA’s restart this summer in Orlando.

Covington ($12.1MM) and Ariza ($12.8MM) have similar salaries for the 2020/21 season, though Ariza’s money is mostly non-guaranteed. It’ll need to be guaranteed for salary-matching purposes, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. While Ariza’s deal is set to expire a year from now, Covington’s contract is a little more team-friendly, running through 2022.

Covington’s age, contract, and versatility were all presumably factors in Portland’s decision to give up its next two first-round picks along with Ariza to land him. The veteran forward will join a lineup that will also feature Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic. Rodney Hood, Gary Trent Jr., and Zach Collins are among the candidates to fill out an impressive starting five.

The trade will have to be officially completed after the Blazers pick at No. 16 on behalf of the Rockets on Wednesday, since teams aren’t allowed to leave themselves with no first-round picks in two consecutive future drafts. Once the 2020 draft is over, Portland will be able to trade its 2021 pick.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

O’Connor’s Latest: Bucks, Mavs, LaVine, Gordon, More

The Bucks are active in trade discussions and have offered point guard Eric Bledsoe to multiple teams, league sources tell Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. As the Bucks look to upgrade their roster around reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and standout forward Khris Middleton, it sounds like they’re focusing on two-way forwards with defensive versatility — according to O’Connor, the club is pursuing Rockets veterans Robert Covington and P.J. Tucker.

O’Connor’s latest mock draft at The Ringer includes plenty of interesting tidbits, including a couple we’ve already passed along. Here are a few more highlights:

  • Multiple teams, including the Mavericks, have contacted the Bulls this offseason to inquire on Zach LaVine‘s availability, says O’Connor. It’s not clear if Chicago would have any interest in moving its leading scorer.
  • League sources tell The Ringer that the Magic have made efforts to move up into the lottery by attaching Aaron Gordon to their No. 15 selection.
  • O’Connor writes that the Suns are “hoping” to use their No. 10 pick in a trade for Chris Paul. That would seemingly contradict an earlier report that suggested Phoenix probably wouldn’t that pick in an offer for the Thunder point guard.
  • Executives around the NBA are fairly confident that Deni Avdija won’t fall past Cleveland at No. 5, according to O’Connor, who is the latest to report that the Cavaliers are high on the Israeli wing.
  • There has been increasing buzz surrounding Serbian forward Aleksej Pokusevski, with execs around the league increasingly believing that he’ll be a lottery pick, per O’Connor.
  • Oregon guard Payton Pritchard is receiving interest from multiple teams near the end of the first round, sources tell O’Connor. One of those sources thinks Pritchard may even have a promise.

Fertitta: No Plans To “Blow Up” Rockets’ Roster

The Rockets are undergoing some major changes this offseason, having parted ways with head coach Mike D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey since being eliminated from the playoffs in September. However, appearing today on CNBC (video link via Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston), team owner Tilman Fertitta indicated that he doesn’t expect those major offseason changes to extend to Houston’s roster.

“There’s no reason to blow up your roster. This is still our window, the next couple of years. James (Harden) and Russell (Westbrook) are in their early 30s. We’re not blowing up anything,” Fertitta said, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). “We plan on contending. … We’re going to do whatever we have to do to win.”

The Rockets’ roster and style of play in recent years has been significantly shaped by Morey and D’Antoni, who favored a fast-paced style of small-ball that featured plenty of three-point attempts. With both men leaving the organization this offseason, there has been some speculation that Houston will adjust its offensive philosophy and roster construction, which could pave the way for a trade involving a former MVP like Harden or Westbrook.

However, Houston’s new head of basketball operations Rafael Stone has been a Morey lieutenant for years, so it makes sense that his approach wouldn’t deviate too substantially from his longtime boss’. And Fertitta’s comments today suggest that the Rockets will enter the offseason looking to upgrade their roster around the edges in the hopes of making a deeper playoff run in 2021.

The Rockets’ situation is still worth keeping an eye on — if the team gets off to a disastrous start next season and reconsiders its stance on the state of its roster, it wouldn’t be just Harden and Westbrook who could become intriguing trade chips. P.J. Tucker and Robert Covington are valuable role players on team-friendly contracts who would draw leaguewide interest if they were made available.

Warriors Notes: Kerr, Wiggins, Trade Exception

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr plans to take a relatively relaxed approach to the team’s offseason mini-camp, scheduled to start next Wednesday. Anthony Slater of The Athletic spoke with Kerr about his approach to the workouts, as well as his thoughts on the recent additions of former team guards Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa to the team. Livingston will be joining the team in a front office role, while Barbosa will serve on the coaching staff.

“We need some young legs on our coaching staff and our players need mentors,” Kerr told Slater. “That’s one of the things I’m so excited about for both Leandro and Shaun joining us. The players need someone they can talk to, go to and ask what it’s like and get an answer from someone who has been in their shoes, literally, in the last couple years.

Here are more Warriors notes:

  • Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area makes the case for why the Warriors should retain, not trade, wing Andrew Wiggins during the 2020 offseason. Wiggins has three years left on the five-year, $148MM contract extension he signed in Minnesota circa 2017.
  • Assuming that the capped-out Rockets will look to make the bulk of their roster transformations through trades that could help the team and save money, Grant Lill of NBC Sports Bay Area thinks that the Warriors could use their $17MM trade exception on either Houston forward Robert Covington and guard Eric Gordon. Covington will collect $25MM over the next two years. Gordon inked a four-year, $75MM extension that will compensate him through the 2023/24 season.
  • In case you missed it, several front offices believe the Warriors would prefer to use their pick in the 2020 draft on a wing. Should Georgia swingman Anthony Edwards be selected with the top pick by the Timberwolves, the team may trade down rather than select point guard LaMelo Ball or center James Wiseman.