Chris Copeland has made quite the impression this preseason. Copeland, in case you didn’t know, is a 6-8 Forward who has an inside-outside game. He also has shown that he is a pretty good defender, but has yet to prove that he can rebound effectively at this level. Copeland went undrafted in 2006, and has played overseas the last 5 years. The Knicks signed him to a non-guaranteed contract after he performed very well in the Summer League.
Then came the preseason game against Boston, in which he scored 21 points in 19 minutes. Copeland is averaging 15.4 ppg in the first 5 games of the preaseason, and is practically a lock to make the team. Copeland has shown that he can hit 3-pointers, and play well in pick-and-roll situations.
Now that STAT will be out for 2-3 weeks someone will have to pick up the slack at the 4. Marcus Camby has yet to be cleared to play, and the same goes for newly unretired Rasheed Wallace. Kurt Thomas will get some minutes, but so far has not played much more than 15 in any game. As far as starting in place of Stoudemire, Woodson has made it clear that for now it will be Kurt Thomas if the other team is big and ‘Melo if the opponent goes small.
Copeland could play a key role in the rotation early in the season. Assuming that Camby and Wallace are not ready by opening night, which is a realistic possibility, then Copeland would be one of the first big men off the bench. After Novak and ‘Melo, Copeland would be the only player who is able to play the 4/5 off the bench with all of the front court injuries.
Copeland could replace STAT as the primary low post force until his return as he has proven that he can be effective from that spot on the court. Copeland could come off the bench, and play primarily with Pablo Prigioni, who he has shown a great deal of chemistry with.
The real question with Copeland is what will happen after all of our frontcourt players return? Camby and Wallace are both better rebounders and defenders than Copeland. STAT would most likely return to the starting lineup, which would further improve the bench leaving less minutes for Copeland. It would be almost impossible for Woodson to find enough minutes for Camby, Kidd, Smith, Wallace, Prigioni, Novak, Brewer (when Shump returns), Thomas, AND Copeland.
The sad truth of it is that Copeland would have to pull off a “Lin-sanity” like performance in the opportunities he is given at the beginning of the season in order to earn a permanent role in the rotation. Most likely though, he won’t play himself out of the rotation, but other players will simply play themselves in (Shumpert, Smith, Camby) after they return.
Copeland could be a decent trade piece towards the deadline if the front office finds a the right player to get in return. He has impressed me thus far, but there is little he can do to make a big impact on this team barring injuries to other key players. There is one thing for sure, he is the only smart choice for the last roster spot on the Knicks.