Player Preview: Chris Copeland, Offensive Weapon, Defensive Worry

Oct 12, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA;Indiana Pacers forward Chris Copeland (22) reacts after scoring against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 12, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA;Indiana Pacers forward Chris Copeland (22) reacts after scoring against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

Remember this? It’s the Chris Copeland of 2013 that gave the Indiana Pacers trouble in the playoffs?

The sharp shooting forward that hit 47.9% of his shots, 42.1% of his 3-pointers? The guy that came in during the playoffs and would hit a three to help spark the New York Knicks? Yeah, that fella.

The Pacers signed him, but what happened to him? He joined the Pacers bench, a place where hopes and dreams go to die as The Five controlled most of the game and the reserves see limited action. Coach Frank Vogel relied on the starting five heavily the last few years because he could. Because they could carry that weight and most of the bench didn’t fit into the picture.

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But that won’t be an option this year. Two of last year’s starters are gone and there isn’t anyone who really looks like a long-term fit. Vogel will be forced to mix and match and see what happens, which means Copeland may see the light of day. When he played with the Knicks he played definitively at the power forward, but with the Pacers he’s been there half the time while splitting the rest with stints at small forward and center.  In Indiana he didn’t have a defined role last season. In New York he was a spark plug, but the biggest issue in Indiana compared to his time with the Knicks is simply that he’s playing half as much.

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But there is a reason for that. Copeland was THE worst defender on the Indiana roster last year with a 103 defensive rating. That may be a good number on any other team, but with the Pacers that’s an issue. Vogel clearly didn’t trust him to fit into the Pacers schemes for long period of times and limited his minutes. But you also have to consider that Copeland had the Pacers highest offensive rating on the year with a 113. His True Shooting and effective field goal percentages went up in Indiana as his teammates cleared the way for easier baskets for him. He can make up for his defensive woes with offensive excellence.

So what do you do with a player that can be so effective offensively but seems to have issues defensively? Is there too much focus on the mistakes and miscues and not the overall production? He still has a positive player rating at +9.7 if you look at last season’s numbers. But the game isn’t played on paper. We’ll get a chance to see if Copeland can make the sort of impact he had in New York if he gets extended minutes. We’ll see if his defense is bad enough to render his offense mute when he’s forced to play a larger role.

–  Ben Gibson (Follow @CowboyOnPatrol)

Relevant GIF

NoDefense /

If you plan to follow the 2014-15 Indiana Pacers, you’ll need a sense of humor. Laugh so you don’t cry. And what’s funnier than Archer? Nothing. Nothing is the answer.

Key 2013-14 Stats

  • 17.6 player efficiency rating (PER)
  • 3.7 points per game
  • 0.8 rebounds per game
  • 61.1% eFG%
  • 41.8% from 3-point
  • 20.8 points/36 minutes
  • 7 minutes per game

One Key Question

Can Chris Copeland defend the small forward position?

The Situation: Chris Copeland is a shooter, capable of getting hot and going off at any given moment. He is truly a threat from anywhere on the Pacers side of the court, capable of hoisting up 3-pointers quickly and precisely. However, he is bulky and has slow feet. He’s spent his NBA career prior to this as a stretch four. His attempts to guard opposing small forwards have never worked well.

Best-case Scenario: Cope slims down throughout the season, and is able to mold himself into a league-average defender. There will be nights against the best of the best (LeBron, Durant, Carmelo) where he gets torched, but he does well enough (and shoots well enough) to negate the damage.

Worst-case Scenario: Cope can’t keep up and is in constant foul trouble, helping the Pacers opponents get into the penalty and keeping his deadly shot glued to the bench.

Prediction: Cope has some of both nights, sometimes looking like he can defend the position, sometimes getting beaten badly. He remains a fan favorite and a net positive, but sees fewer minutes against the league’s elite small forwards, spelling Solomon Hill and C.J. Miles here and there.

– William Furr (follow @Will_Furr)

How He Scores

Chris Copeland
Chris Copeland /

The above spiderweb chart shows, via Synergy Sports, what types of possessions lead to his points in 2013-14. (created by Tim Donahue, follow



He’s gonna shoot 3s. Lots of 3s. Like 68 percent of his shots are gonna be 3s. Did I mention he is gonna shoot some 3s?

Chris Copeland
Chris Copeland /

His 2013-14 shot chart, via Nylon Calculus

He can finish at the rim, and he’s not liable to burn anyone from the midrange. But he’s going to shoot a lot of 3s. Oh, yes — many, many 3s. 

Sweatin’ Bullets

sweatin bullets
sweatin bullets /

Sweatin’ Bullets is an 8p9s tradition started by Jonny Auping in which we offer standalone facts, observations, and commentary, often devoid of context or fairness.

  • After a stint with the Fort Worth Flyers, Copeland played in Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium before returning to play in America with the New York Knicks. He’s well travelled.

Further Reading