The Indiana Pacers have gone through a terrible offseason with losing Lance Stephenson to the Charlotte Hornets in free agency, and then having Paul George go down with a broken leg. They are looking at a very uncertain future without their two best players, and they will have to find some help as far as scoring goes this season. One player that can help out in the scoring department is seldom used forward Chris Copeland, who has the ability to score in bunches when he is on the court.
Frank Vogel didn’t use him very much last season in his first year with the Pacers because he didn’t play defense at the level that the Pacers like to see from their players. He wasn’t quick enough to defend the small forward position, but he wasn’t big enough to defend opposing power forwards. Copeland has been working extremely hard this offseason, and has dropped 20 pounds in hope that he can get quicker and get on the floor this season.
Copeland is mostly known for his three-point shooting, and that could be something that the Pacers desperately need this season. Their offense has been suspect over the last few seasons under Vogel, and stretching the floor would be very beneficial to both David West and Roy Hibbert in the post. He may not be the best defensive option that the Pacers have, but they are going to need to start thinking about where their points are going to come from without Stephenson and George on the court.
Last season with the Pacers, Copeland ended up playing in just 41 regular season games. In those 41 games, he averaged just 6.5 minutes per game, which is quite simply not enough. He may not be the best player on the roster, but he was better than Luis Scola down the stretch of the season by a long shot. All that being said, he is going to see the floor more this season, whether he starts or comes off the bench.
Assuming the Pacers decide to let him play his natural small forward position and stop forcing him onto the court at the power forward spot, he should be just fine. Dropping 20 pounds is going to be huge for him this year, and his quickness will take a major jump as well. His offense showed major steps of improvement from his rookie season to last year, and he added the ability to put the ball on the court and get to the rim at times as well.
He shot 47.0% from the floor overall, and lived up to his potential from behind the three-point arc at 41.8%. Those numbers aren’t bad at all, and it shows that he was able to make an impact on offense when he was on the court. The Pacers are desperately going to need someone to step up this season, and that is exactly where Copeland could come in and be the X-Factor for the 2014-15 season.
If Vogel decides to allow Copeland to play major minutes, he will see a double-figure scorer on most nights. Copeland’s three-point shot is one of the best in the league, and he has an ability to get open. The Pacers need to have guys like that on the court, and playing Copeland could be exactly what the doctor ordered to help them reach their goal of making the playoffs.
All of that being said, he will have to figure out how to play better on the defensive end of the court before he’s able to step into that role. Losing the weight that he has lost is a great first step, but there is much more work to be done. He’ll need to figure out his rotations on defense, and will also need to become stronger with the ball in his hands.
Overall, there is no doubt that Copeland is in for more playing time this season, and he could end up being exactly what they need. There are question marks surrounding him still, but his hard work this offseason should pay off for him. Indiana has quite a few decisions to make about their rotation this coming season, but they need to make sure that Copeland gets a chance to prove himself this year.
Evan Massey is a Staff Writer for HoopsHabit.com.