The Timberwolves are sorely missing Robert Covington

While Robert Covington heals from a bone bruise in his right ankle, the Minnesota Timberwolves are sputtering. How badly do they miss him?

Robert Covington bruised a bone in his right foot back on New Year’s Eve and the Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t been the same since. They managed through the first two weeks, going 4-2 with some nice wins over the Lakers and Thunder.

Since then, however, Minnesota has gone just 4-7 and has been losing some close games.

They have missed him the most on the defensive end. Since his injury, the Wolves’ defensive rating has slipped from 107.3 (10th) with Covington to 110.8 (18th) without him.

Minnesota has also missed his shooting. In the time Covington has missed, the Timberwolves have shot just 33.4 percent from 3 while they were shooting 35.9 percent with him — 11th in the league over the 24-game span.

Those are the two areas where Covington can make a huge impact: 3-point shooting and defense. He has been an important gap-filler for the Timberwolves this season, shoring up those weaknesses on both ends of the floor.

On the offensive side of the court, Covington is shooting 37.2 percent from 3 on 6.7 attempts per game. Playing alongside Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins, and Taj Gibson, all below-average 3-point shooters, Covington’s floor-spacing is necessary. With rookie Josh Okogie, who is shooting 29.6 percent on wide-open 3s, in his place, the space isn’t there for others to operate.

Defensively, it’s even worse. Covington played incredibly well on the defensive end during his 22 games with Minnesota, averaging 2.3 steals per game. The Timberwolves gave up seven fewer points per 100 possessions with Covington on the floor, which is in the 94th percentile.

They simply do everything at a higher level with Covington on the floor.

While Okogie is a promising young wing, he is not nearly ready to be a starting player on a good NBA team. He has good energy on the defensive end but he just doesn’t do very many good things on offense. He will get there, but he still needs some seasoning.

With Covington on the floor, the Wolves feel a lot more complete. The floor is much more balanced and while they don’t have the upside that they had with Jimmy Butler, they are a playoff-level team.

It’s hard to tell how much longer Covington will be out. He’s has missed about six weeks thus far and there was no timetable ever given as to how long to expect him to miss.

Minnesota is getting further and further out of the playoff race and even if Covington returned next week it seems unlikely that they will catch up. They are four games in the loss column out of the eighth seed with Dallas, Los Angeles (Lakers), and Sacramento in their way.

The Timberwolves have played fairly sloppy on both ends since Covington went down and they sorely need his return to remedy both their offensive and defensive issues. The team they have been without him is surely one they don’t want to be for much longer.