Dan Lewis has a chess-inspired Portland Trail Blazers preview for the always excellent Hickory-High.com.
He matches coach Terry Stotts and the 15 Blazers players to the 16 pieces on a chess board.
Queen - Damian Lillard
While the queen is the best offensive piece in the game of chess, the weakness of the queen is defense, because losing that piece will lower the probability of winning. Also, an isolated queen is a vulnerable queen, because if lost, there is no ability to counter the loss of value immediately. So it is also with Lillard, who is a clear threat on offense, racking up 185 3-point shots and leading the team in scoring, there is a definite weakness to his game - defense. Despite a solid frame, decent wingspan, and solid work ethic, Lillard struggled at times to stop his man on defense when isolated. 82games.com reports that Lillard gave up an average of 19.2 points per game to opposing point guards, with an eFG% of 47.7.
Meyers Leonard is a pawn. Now, that being said, Leonard is a very tall pawn, measuring at 7'1" and 240 pounds. He has the physical tools to be a valuable basketball player, but didn't show up during his rookie season. During summer league this offseason, Leonard averaged 11.8 points and 7.0 rebounds in 30.8 minutes per game, and shot 87.5 percent from the free throw line, numbers that look nice. The not-so-nice? Leonard averaged 4.4 fouls per game and had 4 blocks (total), which wasn't even tops for the team (that would be Thomas Robinson with 6). Some people think Leonard could become a franchise center - let's see if he can become a minor piece before he becomes a major player.
Thomas Robinson is a pawn, but one that's spent a lot of time in the weight room. It's incredible to observe the fall of T-Rob in just one season. While at Kansas, his game screamed top-level athleticism but the top-five pick really struggled his first year in the league. A comparison can be made for Robinson to Kenyon Martin, who was the top pick in the draft, and was taken by the New Jersey Nets in 2000. While K-Mart wasn't traded, the Nets changed the team dramatically, adding Jason Kidd during his second season and reaching the NBA Finals, where they would lose to the Lakers. Was Martin ever the best power forward in the league? No. But Martin did impact the game with his physical attitude, his competitiveness, and his leadership. Can Robinson make similar improvements in his game now that he has an elite point guard playing alongside him? I'd like to see him succeed - I think he can become a great player in Portland. For now, he's a sophomore big man struggling to learn the game and who might lose minutes to Victor Claver.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter