The Indiana Pacers are trying to figure out how to deal with the injury to Paul George, and one thing that they’ll desperately need in his absence is offense. George has been the Pacers’ go-to scorer for the past two seasons, and was expected to shoulder an even heavier load this season. There aren’t too many options on the Pacers’ current roster to replace them, but one possibility is fan favorite Chris Copeland.
Copeland showed last season that he is more than capable of bringing offense onto the court when he’s in the game, and he even hit a buzzer-beating game-winning shot against the Milwaukee Bucks late in the season. He wouldn’t be the best defensive presence in the game, but then again the Pacers are concerned about their offense in a major way without George handling a lot of the burden. The Pacers would be able to stretch their opponents out with Copeland’s shooting ability, and he wouldn’t demand the basketball either.
Indiana believes that David West, George Hill, and Roy Hibbert will be able to step their games up with George missing the season, and Copeland would be more than happy to simply compliment them with his perimeter shooting. There is no doubt that his shooting ability would force the defenses they face to stretch out and would give West and Hibbert more room in the paint. He may not be the most talented starting small forward in the league, but he could fill a very similar role to Kyle Korver in Atlanta.
Last season with the Pacers, Copeland played in just 41 regular season games and averaged 6.5 minutes per game. He averaged 3.7 points per game in those appearances, and shot 41.8% from behind the three-point arc. The Pacers signed him because they felt that he could contribute, and perhaps this season he will be asked to contribute in an even bigger way than the Pacers ever imagined.
It’s hard to imagine Copeland at small forward in the Pacers’ lineup, but he would bring an energy spark and hard worker to the lineup. The Pacers’ defense is going to take a hit with the loss of George, and the only player on the roster that could do anything close to what George could do is Solomon Hill. That being said, Hill didn’t show much offense last season, and likely isn’t ready to step in as a starter this year.
All of that being said, this would be a huge step for the Pacers and Copeland. Frank Vogel doesn’t like the lack of defense that Copeland brings to the table, but he will have to figure out a way to help replace George’s scoring ability in the starting lineup. Copeland might not be a good defender, but he is capable of putting up 15 points each and every night, and his shooting ability makes him a major threat to go off for 20 or more points on any given night.
Overall, it’s going to be very interesting to see what the Pacers decide to do at small forward this season. Copeland is definitely in the running, and will likely be given the chance to win the spot in preseason action. The Pacers are likely considering Hill, Copeland, C.J. Miles, and Damjan Rudez as their options right now. There is no question that the Pacers are going to look at the free agent and trade market, and try to get a more proven starter before the season gets here.