At the 2010 NBA trade deadline, the Dallas Mavericks, looking for an edge down the stretch, pawned off injury-prone Josh Howard and role players for two-time All-Star Caron Butler, stud defender Brendan Haywood and a little albatross with an Abe Lincoln tattoo named DeShawn Stevenson. Stevenson's inclusion in the deal was part of the incentive for the Washington Wizards to execute it; to swap a star like Butler and solid piece like Haywood for a question mark like Howard required a bit of sweetener. Dallas taking Stevenson served as such.
Fast forward 16 months, and Stevenson was easily the most valuable of the Wizards' three for Dallas in the NBA Finals, which the Mavericks won over the Miami Heat on Sunday.
Butler, of course, suffered a season-ending ligament tear back in January; the injury sent the Mavericks into a bit of an identity crisis, as Dallas coach Rick Carlisle tinkered with various line-ups to shore up the small forward position. (The Mavericks eventually signed Peja Stojakovic and Corey Brewer to cover. It didn't work, though Stojakovic was effective against the Los Angeles Lakers. Instead, back-up combo forward Shawn Marion took over the starting small forward spot.)
Haywood signed a rich extension last offseason ... before the Mavericks traded for Tyson Chandler, one of the best defensive centers in the game. That knocked Haywood to the bench; he averaged a career-low 18.5 minutes per game during the regular season. He suffered a hip injury early in the Finals, and played just 25 minutes in the series.
But Stevenson? He left an imprint on the NBA Finals.
The enigmatic wing started at shooting guard for the first three games of the series, but the Mavericks trailed 2-1. Carlisle replaced Stevenson with J.J. Barea, looking for more offense in the starting five. That actually served to kickstart Stevenson's own offense a bit, and the Mavericks went on to win the next three games. For the series, Stevenson played 17 minutes a game. He took 24 shots all series, and 23 of them were three-pointers. He hit 13, more than any other Maverick (including Jason Kidd and Jason Terry); only Mario Chalmers hit more for either team (14).
Stevenson's imprint continued in Game 6: he hit three vital three-pointers in five attempts, providing a nice spark in 12 minutes of play. He also got into a shoving match with Udonis Haslem and friends that somehow resulted in the Mavericks getting a free throw. Maybe DeShawn Stevenson just makes the players around him better?
In the future, scholars will see photographs of Stevension's Lincoln tattoo and question whether he was sane. Right now, that doesn't matter, for DeShawn is a champion.