Over at ESPN New York, Ian Begley asks an interesting question when it comes to the postseason, querying as to who deserves more minutes between Steve Novak and Chris Copeland. Both have proven they can hit from the outside, both are sub-par defenders, but Copeland has shown far more versatility in his offensive game. Begley’s bottom line:
Neither player brings much to the floor as a defender. Both players can shoot the 3-pointer. Copeland boasts a versatile offensive skill set; Novak is one dimensional.
So Copeland may have an edge there. But there is no guarantee that Copeland will even be apart of the playoff rotation; Woodson said earlier this week that he thought the 29-year-old rookie had earned a spot.
You can be sure that Novak will certainly be in the mix. Sharpshooters who sign $15 million contracts tend to get time in the postseason. It’s worth noting that Novak struggled to get open looks against Miami in the playoffs last season. At the very least, though, the 6-foot-10 marksman draws the attention of the opposing defense.
I should probably start by acknowledging that Chris Copeland is better than I think anyone could have even conceivably expected, so the fact that this is even a fun debate is a triumph of the human spirit in its own right.
The question is almost less about which one is the better player and rather more about which one will be more useful to this particular Knicks team as it makes it way through the postseason. To that end, I think Copeland has proven pretty definitively that he’s the better all-around offensive player. In addition to his sweet stroke, he’s shown an ability to score in a variety of ways, displaying a pretty creative arsenal around the basket.
Now, if you wanted to turn that into something of a weakness, you could say that Copeland looks for his own shot a little too much given the role he’s going to be playing during the postseason, when you consider he boasts a usage rate that is roughly the same as J.R. Smith (22.7 to 24.4 per NBA.com). Some of that’s obviously inflated because Copeland played in a lot of garbage time early on where he was inclined to score, was leaned on heavily when Carmelo Anthony didn’t play and took over in some of the less meaningful games in April. He’s generally been the lone offensive threat in a large amount of the lineups he’s played in. But the point is just that you’re mostly going to be looking for him to be pretty purely a spot-up shooter in the postseason, and I do think there’s been times when Copeland puts his head down and looks to score with a little too much zeal.
Which brings you to Novak. Sure, Novak’s essentially a basketball playing version of a bowl of vanilla yogurt, but he’s just a flat-out deadly shooter. Yes, Copeland can hit the three at a similar percentage, but there’s an old-school NBA Jam-like danger to Novak catching fire that Copeland doesn’t quite bring. Novak can certainly be shut down if a team decides that’s something it has to do, as Miami proved emphatically a season ago, but the point is it requires such an emphasis. The man guarding Novak simply has to stick to him, which naturally opens up the floor for everyone else.
In other words, it’s a tough call. I’ve grown partial to Copeland, as I love his personal story and his offensive versatility, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Woody lean more heavily on Novak, given that he’s the more reliable three-point shooter and New York’s ability to hit from long range is going to be the key to their success.