14 players in a new system: DeShawn Stevenson

Also see: An introduction to the series | Mike JamesJavaris Crittenton | DeShawn Stevenson player evaluation

If DeShawn Stevenson does indeed work his way back into the regular playing rotation, it will mean he has distanced himself from a brutal 2008/09.  One could make the argument that Stevenson was the worst rotation regular in basketball last season, with his awful shooting percentages and slower-than-usual defense.  On the other hand, he had a severe back injury and played on it far too long, so there's no way he's going to be that bad again.

But Stevenson's role in next year's rotation is very tough to peg.  Stevenson's old starting shooting guard spot is suddenly very crowded.  Newcomers Mike Miller and Randy Foye both play the position, and youngsters Nick Young and Dominic McGuire both had their moments last year when Stevenson got injured.  In addition, Flip Saunders has historically liked having big lineups, which opens up the possibility that Caron Butler may also be taking some shooting guard minutes.  The organization still seems like it's sensitive to Stevenson's relative success as a starter in the past, so I suspect he'll be provided opportunities to retain his spot, but there are a lot of more productive players in the mix.

The previous regime loved Stevenson.  They loved his supposed toughness, his rapport with Gilbert Arenas and his instinct to play through pain.  They were willing to forgive his poor ball-handling, his shaky shot selection and his antics because they felt he provided a missing ingredient.  He was defensive-minded even if he wasn't actually elite defensively.  But will those same qualities make Stevenson a Flip Saunders favorite?  Will he even be healthy enough to play?  Jump to discuss.

Why he might play: Stevenson is a defensive-minded player, and there aren't too many defensive-minded players on the roster.  He has the experience of playing with the other four starters already, so there would be less of an on-court chemistry adjustment needed.  Flip has a history of sitting offensive-minded players and playing defensive-minded guys even if the offensive-minded player is more productive. 

Why he might not play: There are a lot of bodies in front of him who fit Flip's offensive system better.  Stevenson isn't very great coming off screens and was an extremely inefficient scorer until he remade himself into a three-point specialist in DC.  Flip's off guards traditionally have better mid-range games and passing skills than a guy like Stevenson.  His back injury also may not be fully healed by the start of the season.  Remember, it took a long time for Darius Songaila to become fully healthy after he had back surgery. 

My best guess: Stevenson was the past regime's favorite, but Flip will have too many better fits to choose from to play Stevenson much.  I don't think he'll be fully recovered from his back injury as well.  If Flip wants a more defensive-minded player, I think he'd choose McGuire over Stevenson because McGuire's length and help defense skills are better suited to his zoneish defensive system than Stevenson's ability to clamp on his man. 

It's possible the Wizards play Stevenson a lot more early in the season in an attempt to showcase him for a trade.  I suspect Ernie Grunfeld will want to clear his long-term salary off the books if he can.  He already tried to include him in the Minnesota trade, after all.

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