Chris Copeland has started four games this season, most recently against the New Orleans’ Hornets this past Sunday. Copeland has proven himself since the pre-season as an effective scorer from the perimeter and in the post. Where Copeland struggles is with his defense, particularly against bigger players in the paint. He has lost minutes to James White because of his defensive woes, and has rarely been seen on the floor at the end of games. However, with the new scoring woes early on in games, should Chris Copeland become the starting small forward?
Copeland is averaging 6.8 ppg, 1.3 rpg, while shooting 49% from the field, in only 12.2 minutes per game. Copeland is also giving a boost to the team’s already above average three-point shooting as he is shooting 39% from beyond the arc. While his numbers may not be that great, they improve when he starts games. In his four starts, he is averaging 17.5 ppg, 4 rpg, shooting 56% and 48% from the field and three point line respectively.
Copeland has shown that he is one of the more versatile offensive players on the team. Prigioni and he have shown a great pick-and-roll game, he can score with his back to the basket, and he shoots very well from the perimeter as well. Copeland showed off his polished offensive game against the Hornets on Sunday afternoon, where he scored 22 points in 30 minutes. Copeland shot 9-15 from the field, while shooting 50% from beyond the arc.
Another positive aspect of starting Copeland at the 3 is that it allows Carmelo Anthony to continue his MVP-like play at power forward. Carmelo has proven this season, yet again, that he excels at defending and scoring at the 4. ‘Melo is faster than most, if not all, power forwards, which allows him to get by them while driving, but is strong enough to bang with them on the other end of the court in the post. Copeland at small forward allows Mike Woodson to start ‘Melo at the 4 without sacrificing any scoring from the lineup.
However, Copeland does have some issues that could prevent him from being the long term answer at the 3. For a 6-8 forward, Copeland does not rebound well, which is even more serious when you consider how terrible the Knicks have been at rebounding all season long. He is only averaging 4 rebounds in start, and Woodson could probably get more out of a bigger lineup.
Another issue, as I previously mentioned, is Copeland’s defense. He has been beat to the basket multiple times, but more seriously has shown that he struggles with bigger players down low. This may be the reason Woodson has lessened Copeland’s time at power forward. While his man-to-man defense has left something to be desired, Copeland has shown he has decent hands for blocks and steals.
With all the injuries that the Knicks have at this point in the season (Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby, and Raymond Felton are all injured), and the recent lack of scoring early on in games, it may be a smart move to start Chris Copeland. The injection of offense could help the team’s offensive flow as well as challenge defenses when they double Carmelo Anthony. Stoudemire (who’s defense is still shaky) expects to close out most games, so Copeland’s poor defense would not matter much in the scheme of things. Copeland has proven that he belongs in this league this year, and maybe he can prove he deserves to start on this team with his next chance being against the Pistons on Thursday.