New York Knicks fans are celebrating tonight because of J.R. Smith's incredible buzzer-beater against the Phoenix Suns. However, the Knicks have still lost three of their past six games, and two of those games were squeakers against the Suns and the Minnesota Timberwolves without Kevin Love.
Now, I'd rarely make a change with the Knicks having such a tremendous start to the season, but I think there's an obvious, necessary one to be made. It's time to give Chris Copeland a bigger role in their rotation.
Copeland has been on quite a journey so far throughout his basketball career. He went from the University of Colorado at Boulder to the NBA D-League to playing overseas basketball for five years. However, the 28-year-old rookie may have found himself a home in the New York Knicks rotation.
Does this story sound familiar to Knicks fans? Just like Jeremy Lin last season, Copeland can be a huge boost to the Knicks when they need it most. Copeland is shooting 50 percent from three-point range and 53.5 percent overall from the field. This guy is a promising offensive player who has a knack for scoring.
But how can the Knicks give more minutes to Copeland? Well, let's compare Copeland's numbers to Steve Novak's. Novak is shooting only 41.2 percent from the field, while his three-point shooting is at 42.9 percent. Also, Novak has been extremely ineffective during the Knicks' cold stretch.
In the past five games he has played (he didn't play when the Knicks beat the Nets on December 19), Novak has made one field goal at most. The problem hasn't been his shooting percentage; he's attempted just over three shots per game over that stretch.
It's the fact that Novak has been averaging over 25 minutes in those five games. If Novak isn't shooting the ball, he's essentially a huge disadvantage for the Knicks. He's not going to contribute anything else to the offense besides his outside shooting, and on defense he's a huge liability. It's hurt the Knicks, because those five games have been either losses or very close wins against below-average teams.
Copeland, on the other hand, has been making an impact when he's been given an opportunity to play. He's played in just six games this month (I'm not counting his two-minute, zero-shot appearance in the Knicks drubbing over the Miami Heat), averaging 20 minutes in them. He's averaging seven shots over this span, and he's been making them at a 62.5 percent rate. This includes shooting the three-ball at a blistering 61.5 percent.
In the month of December, Copeland is averaging 13.3 points per game in the games he's played in. This includes a 29-point performance against the Houston Rockets less than two weeks ago.
He's not standing around on offense either, waiting for a three-pointer to open for him. He can score from several different areas on the court. He's also a better defender than Novak. This is why Copeland can be a bigger weapon than Novak: He can help the Knicks in more ways. The Knicks surely could have used him in their loss against the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas..
If you give more of Novak's minutes to Copeland, the Knicks' three-point shooting won't be affected. As stated before, Copeland is shooting threes at a better percentage than Novak this season. Also, the Knicks have a plethora of outside shooters anyway, so Novak's occasional threes won't be missed. The Knicks can't afford to have a one-dimensional player on the court so often, especially not in the playoffs.
It's time for coach Mike Woodson to give Copeland a bigger role for the Knicks. It's clear that he's deserved it based on his strong play this month. Madison Square Garden loves their underdogs, and this guy's story is another one that could be added to Knicks lore. Copeland's game is certainly one that the Knicks need to add more of into their rotation.