2019-20 Magic Pre-Hiatus Review: Evan Fournier

by John Denton

ORLANDO - Whereas the NBA is still on track to resume its interrupted season on July 30 at Disney World, in many ways that restart will feel like a completely new season to the players and coaches involved.

After all, it will be more than four months of time between the last NBA games being played on March 11 and the ones scheduled to start near the end of next month. Never before has the NBA seen a disruption in its season quite like the one caused by the COVID-19 pandemic this season.

The Orlando Magic, for example, were 30-35 when the season was halted, but that record hardly tells the story of where the team sat when the suspension hit. As of early March, the Magic were among the hottest teams in the league after winning three games in a row, six of nine and eight of 12. Accordingly, their offensive production was off the charts and near the tops in the league during that hot streak.

Now, the Magic’s mission is to try and pick up where they left off when they rallied to beat the Grizzlies in Memphis on March 10. If that stirring victory feels like it was months ago, it’s because it truly was.

Over the coming weeks, OrlandoMagic.com will break down the overall play and top performances of the Magic’s key players over the first 65 games of the season. Also, we’ll analyze where those players need to improve when the NBA season resumes at Disney World on July 30. The NBA is sending 22 teams – nine from the East and 13 from the West – to play eight ``seeding’’ games before starting the traditional, four-round playoffs.

Without further ado, today we look at the play and production of shooting guard Evan Fournier, who has been a fixture in the Magic’s starting lineup since 2014:

Player: Evan Fournier
Position: Shooting guard
Height, weight, time with Magic: 6-7, 205, 6 seasons

2019-20 Statistics: 61 games; 18.8 points; 3.2 assists; 2.8 rebounds; 1.15 steals; 47 FG percentage; 40.6 3FG percentage; 82 FT percentage.

2019-20 Best game: Dec. 1 (100-96 win vs. Golden State) – 32 points, four rebounds, one steal, 13-of-21 shooting and six-of-10 3-point shooting.

2019-20 Injury woes: Missed one game (Jan. 15) due to a right quad contusion; missed three games with a right UCL sprain of his right elbow (March 6-10).

2019-20 Season highs: 32 points (Dec. 1, vs. Golden State); seven rebounds (Nov. 8, vs. Memphis); nine assists (Nov. 17, vs. Washington); two blocks (March 4, at Miami); four steals (Feb. 29, at San Antonio).

2019-20 Season to date: Following a dismal shooting season in 2018-19, Fournier has enjoyed tremendous success in terms of shooting the ball – overall, from 3-point range and from the free throw stripe. Fournier leads the Magic in 3-point shooting (40.6 percent) and free-throw accuracy (82 percent). His 47 percent shooting overall would be the best of his career and his 40.7 percent accuracy is just a tenth of a point off another career-best mark. Fournier has led the team in scoring 21 times and in assists 10 times. He has four 30-point games and 25 20-point games thus far. He has worked over the past two seasons to make himself a much better distributor who makes up plays for others in the Magic offense. After averaging a career-best 3.6 assists a game last season, Fournier has logged 3.2 assists a game this season – many of those passes going to close friend and long-time teammate Nikola Vucevic in the two-man game.

2019-20 Finish: Whether it’s simply coincidence or not, the Magic have played extremely well in the games that Fournier has missed because of injury this season. Orlando shocked the Los Angeles Lakers in January when Fournier was unable to play because of a thigh contusion. Then, after Fournier sprained the UC joint in his right elbow on March 4 in Miami, the Magic went 3-0 without Fournier in the final three games prior to the stoppage in the NBA’s season because of the coronavirus. The time off from basketball has helped Fournier fully heal his injured elbow and he will almost assuredly move back into the starting lineup when NBA play resumes. But Fournier must be more flexible in his game because, simply put, the ball seemed to stick less and had better movement while the talented shooting guard was out injured. Advanced metrics show that the Magic’s offense is more lethal and potent when the scoring is being spread around instead of being primarily focused on Fournier. Fournier must be willing to adapt his game to the style of play that the Magic adopted in the 10 games after the break for the NBA All-Star Game.

If the Magic maintain their grip on a playoff spot and reach the postseason again, Fournier will undoubtedly be in focus. Last spring, Fournier struggled mightily with his shot in the Magic’s five-game loss to the Toronto Raptors in the first round. In that series he made just 34.8 percent of his shots and only eight of 34 attempts from 3-point range. The guard, who can potentially become a free agent following the season, will need to shoot the ball much better for the Magic to have a shot at winning a playoff series.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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