Spark. Theres no better way of describing Chen. In his best version, hes a game changer, a guy who ignites the games tempo with his quickness, outrunning every opponent while he makes his way towards the basket. In his worst version, he can be a terrible playmaker, incapable of getting anything done in the set offense. If he cant run, hes pretty much lost out.
The semifinal series last week precisely brought us both extremes of Chen. He looked awful in the first game, with no confidence, tentative, uncomfortable in a relatively slow-paced game. He came back strong in the second one, with 23 points, coming mostly off transition plays that were crucial to build a big lead for Guangdong.
For a small point guard like Chen he looks shorter than the 6-2 hes usually listed at- running is a good option to get things done, to unbalance the opposing team and find easy baskets. His phenomenal quickness and solid ball-handling skills, even pretty consistent with his left, are perfect tools to start moving, while he shows nice ability to sneak between rivals relying on his solid footwork. Even in the set offense, he usually needs to get by his match-up off the dribble to be able to operate, either looking for the basket or feeding a teammate (often with kick-out passes). If he doesnt find a way to get rid of his opponent, he tends to over-dribble, while a pressing defense puts him in trouble when it comes to passing the ball. Hes a small guard, not strong, at all and his wingspan nothing out of this world, so he often struggles to find passing angles.
His limited physical profile also hurts his defense. First of all, his great quickness doesnt completely translate to his lateral movement. Besides, hes not always equally intense, not putting enough pressure on the ball, and too often allowing his opponent to think and start moving too easily. With limited length and strength to contain his attacking match-ups, Chen finds himself forced to give up his lateral efforts in order to run after them, therefore not being able to actually stop their advance.
On a positive note, when he does put some pressure on the ball, besides providing a more reliable defense for his team, he can come up with some steals, just as when hes active attacking his opponents dribble on defensive rotations. These efforts just fuel his hunger for the fast-break, making his game style more effective.
Back to the offensive end, we shouldnt forget his ability to shoot the ball. Chen can be a nicely effective shooter out to the international three-point line, particularly in catch-and-shoot fashion, if hes open. He has off-the-dribble skills in this department, even being capable of hanging in the air and releasing the shot after reaching the apex of his jump. However, given his lack of size, he often struggles to find enough space to comfortably release his pull-up jumper.
Its obvious that Chen is not particularly impressing us with his play as of late. The thing is, he doesnt look improved at all when it comes to his main weaknesses, which are pretty serious. Despite enjoying some nice potential, its becoming increasingly questionable if he will ever be able to transcend a (likely) star role in the up-tempo and carefree Chinese CBA in order to succeed in a more demanding competition.