After being dormant for a bit, Wizards player evaluations for ‘08-09 are picking back up. DeShawn Stevenson is up sixth. My thoughts are below, you can check on a full report on Bullets Forever.
DeShawn Stevenson was a nice role player. Played defense, played hurt, nailed the open three. Through the ’07-08 season, Ernie Grunfeld had himself a steal to the tune of a reasonable 4-year, $15 million contract he signed Stevenson to in July of 2007 (after swiping the free agent from Orlando the previous season for a cool million, Stevenson having rejected a 3-year $10.5 million offer from the Magic in the summer of ’06).
Only 32 appearances due to a back injury later, Stevenson is labeled as a has-been, a bad contract, and a prime candidate for riding the inactive list.
Is it fair to completely write the guy off? My gut instinct says no. If this team is to win, if Flip Saunders is to assert control over his new players, everyone should have a clean slate, and a chance.
But then I recall Stevenson’s past antics. Him “not feeling his face” during games when the Wizards are getting their butt kicked. Him being an unnecessary antagonist in a rivalry with Cleveland. The fact that he can’t seem to get over LeBron James. Is he the Dennis Rodman capable of getting under an opponent’s skin to his team’s advantage? Or is he the Dennis the Menace clown whose sophomoric distractions prove detrimental when the team should be professional, focused, and on a mission?
What we do know is that Stevenson is probably the Wizards’ best perimeter defender, with Dominic McGuire being a close second. And this team will need to have it’s best defenders getting significant time.
He can also knock down spot up three pointers, possessing a complimentary game that doesn’t hijack the offense. Stevenson’s 158 three-pointers made in ’07-08 would rank as the second most Mike Miller has made in his career … albeit, Miller’s 155 in ’07-08 came at the clip of 43.2 percent, Stevenson’s percentage was 4.9 points lower.
In the Bullets Forever poll on who should start at the two-spot, Miller won in a landslide with 57 percent. Stevenson’s six-percent also trailed Randy Foye (23%) and Nick Young (10%). I voted for Miller, but my money is on the competition coming down very close between him and Stevenson.
If Stevenson comes back healthy (Darius Songaila was able to successfully come back from herniated disk back surgery), and his game returns to the level of his first two seasons with the franchise, he might get the nod to start next to the offensive weapons of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, and Antawn Jamison. This would leave the Wizards with a potent 1-2-3 punch of Foye, Miller, and Andray Blatche getting a bulk of the minutes off the bench.
Miller is unquestionably better than Stevenson in more aspects than just offense, such as rebounding and passing. But Saunders understands it’s not about starting your best five players. It’s about what pieces fit best working as one unit. Many fans have written Stevenson off, seemingly ignoring that his poor play on ’08-09 was due to injury. Thankfully for the team, Saunders hasn’t done the same.