By Hannibal Knowles
Chris Copeland, the 6’8” 29 year old rookie captured the hearts of Knicks fans as soon as he suited up in the orange and blue. He arrived in the NBA after playing in the Euroleague for five years and having played a stint in the NBA D-League.
One thing I can definitely say about “Cope” is that he has been beneficial to this Knicks team. For this postseason he had a positive effectiveness of +3.33. He pulled out a big Game 5 performance, going for 13 points in 19 minutes. Chris’ performance really was a boost for the Knicks, who were pushed around by the physical Pacers squad, and was one of the contributing factors to the 85-75 win in that game. Woodson was criticised for not delegating more minutes to him in that series, which I think is fair, as he was having an impact when he got time on the floor.
Although he never put on the greatest defensive show, he definitely improved as the season went on. He posted increasingly higher rebound numbers including a season high 9 against Washington in April. That game was during the stint when Copeland’s minutes skyrocketed, due to the core players, such as Anthony and Felton, being rested for the Playoffs. He showed promise during the course of his rookie season and potential for the future. One of my favorite performances being 29 points in 28 minutes against Houston in December. His notable achievements include winning Rookie of the Month for April. It’s an award that seems to have been held by Damian Lillard for most of the year, who is a true rising star. From April 7th until the end of the regular season, he became a positive contributor for a Knicks team that was on a 13-game winning streak. But what do the New York Knicks really and truly need from him?
His dangerous 3-point shot can catch opponents unaware and be a momentum changer in a game. He also exhibited flashes of lovely play in the paint, particularly during the mid to late regular season. He must keep scoring if he ends up staying in the orange and blue uniform for another season.
If he is to become a properly integral part of the line-up, his already improved defense needs to step up another notch or two. He can defend fairly well, but whether he can make crucial stops at crucial times is debatable.
He needs to stay healthy, because as we saw this season the Knicks’ players seemed to go through phases of injuries. He will need to stay fit even if his minutes are increased or decreased by Woodson next season, be ready at all times.
To me, it looks unlikely that there will be a big turnaround in style of play for next season, as many three pointers will be apart of the offense again. This suits Copeland, as he excels from downtown. Grunwald will probably see that and make the decision not to let him go. The three point style of play was evidently effective, gaining the orange and blue the 2 seed. So if the offensive strategy is perfected this offseason, Cope and the Knicks could come back stronger than ever.
If the Knicks manage to get a new big man during the offseason, Cope’s position on the team should still be valuable. he can camp out at the 3 and not have to worry about crashing the boards too much if there are enough strong rebounders on the floor.
I don’t think the NY Knicks will be moving in too much of a different direction in which Cope can’t fit, therefore there is more of a case than not to keep him on the roster. He has had a successful rookie year on the whole, and now with a year of NBA experience under his belt, he can be more confident looking ahead to next season… Hopefully in a NY uniform!
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