How good can Evan Fournier become? | Magic Basketball

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Aug 20

How good can Evan Fournier become?

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Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

In late June, the Orlando Magic traded a proven player and their leading scorer to the Denver Nuggets for, essentially, two unknowns, which in most cases isn’t a smart move.

With the 56th overall pick in the 2014 draft, which was included in the trade, the Magic acquired Devyn Marble, a potent scorer in college who has a lot of developing to do before he becomes a rotational player in the NBA. With the Magic now having their own D-League affiliate, there’s a strong chance Marble will spend a lot of his rookie season on assignment with the Erie BayHawks. With that in mind, it’s unlikely he’ll be a big contributor anytime soon.

The focal point of the trade was Evan Fournier who, despite some upside, has very little mileage — 114 games and 1,931 minutes — and a short resume — 840 points and 156 assists — since entering the league in 2012.

On the surface, the trade was heavily lopsided, even with Arron Afflalo’s impending free agency (he has a player option after the 2014-15 season). The Nuggets got the Magic’s leading scorer and fringe Eastern Conference All-Star in return for a bench player and one of the final picks in the draft. However, the Magic have had Fournier on their radar for quite some time and feel as though he fits in perfectly with what they are trying to accomplish right now. The question is: are they overvaluing him, or does he actually have the potential to bring them much-needed scoring?

Fournier’s per game statistics of 7.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists over his first two seasons with a career 11.1 PER doesn’t pin him as a star on the rise, nor as someone who really deserves starter minutes. Yet he has shown flashes of potential in both his rookie and sophomore campaign, which leaves room for optimism as he grows into a bigger role, something that he’s looking forward to now that he’s in a new setting.

In Denver, Fournier was utilized heavily as a spot-up shooter — it accounted for 22.9 percent of his total offense in 2013-14, per Synergy Sports — and it’s the biggest asset he brings to a team right now. Last season, Fournier ranked 48th overall in spot-up situations, averaging 1.13 points per possession. He also connected on 37.6 percent of his 3s. Fournier did struggle with consistency last season, though. His 3-point percentage fluctuated greatly over the first three months, and it wasn’t until much later that he started to round out into form.
 
Evan Fournier's 2013-2014 shot chart via Nylon Calculus

Via Nylon Calculus

Nevertheless, the reason why, for the most part, Fournier was successful in those situations is because of how well he reads offensive sets. Playing alongside Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler took a lot of focus off of Fournier when he was on the court, which he used to his advantage. When his defender helps off to clamp down on the ball handler, Fournier tends to move to their blind side to give himself the time needed to get off a good shot (he does the same on backdoor cuts, too).

In the video below, you’ll see Chris Paul flash to the paint to prevent Chandler from getting to the basket, to which Fournier responds with a cut away from Chandler to give Paul more ground to cover.
 

While he will carry more of an offensive load with the Magic, he’ll be able to play off of their ball dominant guards, which should translate to similar looks that he got in Denver.

Fournier also thrived in the open court with the Nuggets, which made up nearly a quarter of his total offense in 2013-14. He tends to gravitate towards the 3-point line on fast breaks — over half of his fast break attempts were 3s last season — which will complement Payton and Oladipo perfectly, seeing as they both like to push the ball and attack the rim instead of setting up beyond the arc. It’ll add another dimension to the Magic’s offense, which, when combined with Channing Frye’s ability to space the floor, should make up for the team’s shooting problems.

The Nuggets weren’t good last season, which should’ve worked to Fournier’s advantage by opening up more opportunities for him on the offensive end. However, that didn’t happen, mainly because he was up-and-down all season long despite seeing a boost in minutes since his rookie campaign. However, in the 12 games that he played between 30-39 minutes — along the lines of what he could play with the Magic if all goes to plan — he bumped his season averages way up to 18.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Fournier was also one of six members on the Nuggets who posted a positive net rating when on the court and his per 36 minute numbers were along the same lines as Arron Afflalo’s.

That’s not to say that those are the numbers Fournier will be expected to put up next season. In fact, it’s unlikely that he’ll play enough minutes to warrant those opportunities now that the team is set on sliding Oladipo back over to his natural position at shooting guard. It’s just an indicator of what he is capable of doing in the right setting and role. He has potential to develop into a versatile scorer, which is what the Magic need in wake of Afflalo’s departure.

Defensively, the Magic should be set in the future with Payton, Oladipo, and Gordon in uniform. However, for the team to reach the heights they are expecting to, they’ll need pieces that will outweigh their shortcomings, which is why the additions of Channing Frye and Fournier should work to their benefit.

Time is on the Magic’s side. With the trade, they got younger and added two players with upside. For Marble, his timetable stretches over a longer period of time, but Fournier’s development fits right in with the Payton’s and Oladipo’s on the roster. He also doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective, which will open up more opportunities for others. His usage rate of 18.7 percent last season was far lower than Arron Afflalo’s (23.3 percent).

Fournier is capable of being a plus-player on the Magic and perhaps being in a place where he can develop alongside other raw talents is what he needs to fully tap into his potential.

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