Prior to this season, no NBA fans knew who Chris Copeland was. Not many NBA players did either. It turns out, though, that the 28 year-old rookie, who the New York Knicks signed from a team in Belgium, is proving to be a diamond in the rough.
Let’s begin by saying Copeland is dreadful defensively. It’s not that he lacks intensity or determination; it’s just that he doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing (back-door cuts, help defense, weak-side rebounding, etc.). For that reason, Mike Woodson, a religiously defensive-minded coach, has held a tight leash on Copeland throughout the season, and his playing time has fluctuated because of it.
Despite his defensive ineptitude, Copeland can score. When he’s feeling it, the dude can fill it up in a hurry. With Carmelo Anthony (who has told Copeland throughout the season to remain aggressive), J.R. Smith, and most of New York’s rotation out for the last two games of the season, Copeland has made the most of his opportunity.
In the Knicks’ final two games of the regular season, Copeland became the first Knick rookie to score 30+ points in back-to-back games. In his last five contests, ‘Cope is putting up 22.2 points per game while averaging 8.7 PPG over the course of this season.
Copeland alone isn’t going to win the NBA Finals, but he can help the Knicks get there. When Anthony comes out in the second quarter, there is an occasional lull in the team’s offensive production. Copeland can cure that- he scored 13 points on 5-9 shooting in the second quarter of a Knicks victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder on 4/7/13- and can contribute solid minutes over the course of the game, especially if Anthony or Smith get into foul trouble and need to sit.
Woodson has been tough on Copeland, but the rookie has grown and matured this season, so much so that he just might earn himself a spot in New York’s playoff rotation.