By Max Marcilla
While it nothing is official, as of now, it is looking more and more likely that Chris Copeland will leave New York to join another NBA team.
The reason for this is simple – Copeland has the scoring abilities to be a starting forward and average around or above 15 points per game for a decent team. When he was on the Knicks, Copeland wasn’t used enough. Until the Knicks were looking down the bench for answers in the playoffs, due to a struggling J.R Smith, they did not use Copeland in the postseason with consistency.
However, with new reports saying that the New Orleans Pelicans are one of many teams interested in the 29-year-old forward, the Knicks will look in multiple directions to replace Chris Copeland.
One direction the Knicks could go is signing a replacement through free agency. This isn’t easy due to the fact that the Knicks are very limited in their cap space, but it is doable.
One option is Shawne Williams. The former Knick has shown interest in returning, as he could get signed for the veteran’s minimum. Williams had a terrific season a few years back as a Knick, having a career year from beyond the arc. Unfortunately for Williams, after signing a 2-year deal with the [then New Jersey] Nets, he struggled on and off the court. However, fresh off an arrest, Williams is back, and ready to play. He has already worked out with the Knicks, and will most likely play in the summer league alongside current Knick, Iman Shumpert. Williams can be (with focus) the long-ball threat that Copeland is, and he can do it at a low price.
Another option is an under-the-radar player, but one that caught my attention: Gani Lawal. Lawal was once a member of the Phoenix Suns, but a torn ACL during the practice before a game against the Knicks ended his stint as a Sun. Since then, Lawal has played in the D-League, overseas in Poland, China, France, and Italy. While Lawal’s game is different from Copeland’s, they do have a similarity: they can score. Chris Copeland can come off the bench and spark a team with a few 3-point bombs, while Lawal can score inside, thus killing two birds with one stone (replacing Copeland, and getting an inside scoring presence). Lawal also has experience playing with Knicks forward Iman Shumpert, as the two were teammates at Georgia Tech. They have a good friendship, and even after Shumpert tore his ACL in the 2012 playoffs, Lawal was one of the first people to call him and give him support.
Another direction the Knicks could go in is drafting a player to replace Copeland.
In the draft, there are two prospects I am looking at that can match what Chris Copeland did for the Knicks last season.
Allen Crabbe is one of the best scorers in the draft. Crabbe averaged just over 18 points per game in his junior campaign last year, as he can score from many different spots. He shot 46% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc. However, in his first two years, he shot the three-ball much better, including shooting 40% from downtown in his first year. The one big negative for Crabbe is that he hasn’t proven that he can be a good defender, but that was also Copeland’s big weakness last year.
Another prospect is Reggie Bullock. Bullock’s stock has been on the rise since the end of the NCAA season, and if the Knicks can get him with the 24th pick, it would be a steal. However, it isn’t that likely that they get him. Bullock is like a Steve Novak 2.0. They are similar in the fact that they cannot create their own shots, but Bullock is younger, will come at a lower price, and will attempt 2-pointers. But with that being said, Bullock is a 3-point shooter at heart. About half of his shots were three-pointers, and over 45% of them went in.
There are many other options. The Knicks could develop another draftee into a shooter, they could sign a less-talented player off of free agency that could still provide a few points off the bench, or they could perform a trade. Nonetheless, these four players would help replace Chris Copeland in a Knicks uniform.