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Player evaluation: DeShawn Stevenson

For five-sixths of the season, DeShawn Stevenson was a revelation.  After being forced to sign for the veterans minimum, Stevenson was a solid shooting guard that was having a career year.  His shooting percentage teetered around 50 percent the entire year, and after struggling his entire career from beyond the arc, he shot well over 40 percent from three.  He fit right in with the Wizards clubhouse and even provided a bit of swagger with his whole "You can't feel my face" routine.  It was annoying to others, but nobody, save for Gilbert Arenas, defined the Wizards better than Stevenson.

Then, once Gilbert went down, it all fell apart.  His shooting percentage in the games after Arenas went down barely approached 30 percent, and in the playoffs, he shot a dreadful 9 of 46 from the field.  The rest of his game suffered too.  Only once did he post more than 5 assists, he never grabbed more than 4 rebounds, and, on countless occasions, he lost the ball while trying to drive to the rim.  When the rest of the team really needed him to raise his game, Stevenson faltered badly.

It's tempting to judge Stevenson based on his awful end to the season, but I think it would be a mistake.  How many times will Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas both be out at the same time, after all?  It's probably a blessing in disguise that he was so awful, because it likely drives down his market value to a level where the Wizards can afford to re-sign him and still upgrade the position.  

The problem is that Stevenson is a backup-quality shooting guard, even when he was playing well.  Coming into the season, he was expected to give the Wizards some defensive toughness on the wing, but it's debatable whether that really happened.  Stevenson's certainly a better defender than Arenas, Caron Butler, and Antawn Jamison, so as compared to them, he's a good defender.  Individually, Stevenson did do a passable job on most shooting guards, holding them below a league-average PER.  At the same time, the Wizards defense, in terms of efficiency, effective field goal percentage, and defensive rebounding percentage, was worse when he was on the court.  Stevenson basically proved to be an average defender, which is better than most Wizards, but isn't enough to make a real impact.

Offensively, Stevenson had the best season of his career, even with the late-season slump.  His true shooting percentage of 54.2% was easily the highest of his career, as was his assist rate of 18.4.  His 12.9 PER was also the highest of his career.  All of these numbers likely would have been higher if not for his late-season slump, which, as said earlier, should be de-emphasized.

But even those career highs tell the same story: that Stevenson is a backup-quality player starting in a key spot in the lineup.  He's exactly the type of player the Wizards need alongside Arenas, but he's not a good enough defender to start on a contending team.  Nothing he does is particularly extraordinary, which is fine if he was the 7th or 8th man, but not if he's a key starter.  At least offensive black holes like Jason Collins and Bruce Bowen are phenomenal defenders.  Stevenson isn't yet.  

However, since upgrading the bench should be among the Wizards' top priorities, I think they should try to re-sign Stevenson.  I'd be pleased if he signed the same 3 year/10 million dollar contract he rejected last season.  That way, the Wizards can try to figure out a way to find a better guy, either through the draft or in free agency, to plug in as the starting shooting guard, with Stevenson coming off the bench.  He's a decent player that should definitely stick around, but ideally, the Wizards should find a defensive upgrade to play alongside Arenas.

Maybe they can get one of these guys to take Stevenson's place.


Agree?  Disagree?  Should the Wizards bring DeShawn back?  If they do, is he good enough to start for a contender?