What Fournier, Wagner, Kornet Bring to the Table for Celtics
The Boston Celtics went into Thursday’s trade deadline looking to add another versatile wing scorer to their roster, and they got their man in Evan Fournier.
Boston traded point guard Jeff Teague and two future second-round draft picks to the Orlando Magic in exchange for the nine-year veteran, who is averaging career-highs of 19.7 points and 3.7 assists per game in 26 appearances this season.
But Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge wasn’t done there; he also dealt Daniel Theis and Javonte Green to the Chicago Bulls as part of a three-team trade with the Washington Wizards. In return, the Celtics landed an energetic and tough-minded center in Moritz “Moe” Wagner from Washington, along with 7-foot-2 big man Luke Kornet from the Bulls.
Acquiring Fournier is one of the biggest moves that the Celtics have ever made at the deadline, and one that could possibly inject new life into a team that’s looking to climb out of a 21-23 hole and back into a high seed in the East.
“I think his experience will help,” Ainge said of Fournier Friday morning. “His skills, his versatility – a 6-foot-7 guy who can handle the ball, he could play some 1, he could play some 2, he could play some 3, he can play in lineups that switch 1-4 or 1-5. I think he brings a lot of versatility and he's an added offensive weapon for Brad (Stevens) to use, and it alleviates some of the pressure on Jaylen (Brown) and Jayson (Tatum) and Kemba (Walker) to have to create so much.”
As Ainge indicated, the French wing brings a well-rounded scoring skill set, highlighted by his ability to shoot the long ball. This season, he is averaging 2.8 3-point makes per game at a 38.8 percent clip, which, from a volume standpoint places him second on the Celtics behind Kemba Walker (2.9 made 3-pointers per game).
But Fournier is more than just a sharpshooter; he is a pure bucket-getter who can also score from the mid-range and at the rim. His ability to drive the ball should benefit the Celtics greatly, as it gives them a player who can drive-and-dish, finish at the cup, and also draw contact and get to the free-throw line. This season, he has seen a significant spike in free-throw attempts, as he is making 4.7 trips to the charity line per game. That’s more than any other player on the Celtics is averaging.
On top of his scoring ability, Fournier has also proven himself to be a strong playmaker. Over the years, he has served as a backup point guard for the Magic when needed, and his ability to handle the ball should help him fit in nicely alongside two other playmaking wings in Brown and Tatum.
Not only is Fournier playing the best basketball of his career this season, but he is also coming to Boston in the midst of one of his hottest stretches. In his last six games, he has averaged 24.7 points per game, while shooting 51.0 percent from the field and 46.4 percent from 3-point range on 9.3 such attempts. He scored 31 points twice during that stretch and reached 21 points in all but one of those games, which happened to be a 16-point effort against Boston Sunday afternoon.
And Fournier certainly went out of Orlando with a bang. On Wednesday night, less than 24 hours before the trade, he knocked down a beautiful game-winning layup against the Phoenix Suns. So in other words, this is another guy who the Celtics can count on to score or play-make in crunch-time situations.
Speaking of winners, the Celtics also picked up a hard-working backup big man in Moe Wagner, while saying a difficult goodbye to Daniel Theis. Like Theis, Wagner is originally from Germany, although he took the college route to the NBA via the University of Michigan.
Wagner, in his third NBA season, is averaging 7.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game, while playing 15.0 minutes per contest. On a per-36 minute basis, those numbers average out to 17.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.1 assists.
In the middle of February, the 6-foot-11, 245-pound center was elevated into Washington’s starting lineup. His best outing of the season came against the LA Clippers on Feb. 23 when he stuffed the stat sheet with 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Following that game, Wizards coach Scott Brooks told the Washington Post that Wagner “just makes winning plays, and he’s just good to be around. His teammates love him, and he just always wants to do right by his teammates.”
Wizards star Bradley Beal would later attest to that comment, noting how the 23-year-old “has been giving us nothing but life on both ends. We feed off of that. We need it. Moe loves what he does; I always call him an irritant. He’s out there to just be a pest, to get up under your skin, talk his trash, all while playing at a high level. I love everything Moe brings. His spirit is what uplifts us.”
Boston bolstered its big man spot even more with the addition of Luke Kornet, who was also acquired in the Theis deal. The Vanderbilt product brings four years of NBA experience to the C’s, having played his first two seasons in New York and his last two in Chicago. His best season came in 2018-19 when he averaged 7.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game in 46 appearances (18 starts) for the Knicks.
At 7-foot-2, 250 pounds, Kornet provides a solid rim-protection presence, and it must be noted, is also the only player on the team who won’t look small standing next to 7-foot-5 fan-favorite Tacko Fall.