2017-18 Player Review: Evan Fournier

by John Denton

ORLANDO – An adventurous traveler with a thirst for learning about other areas and cultures, Orlando Magic guard/forward Evan Fournier has vacationed in places such as the Philippines, Algeria, Hawaii and Utah’s Zion National Park at the conclusion of the past three regular seasons.

Other than a short retreat to his home near Paris, Fournier will be taking no such vacations this time around because of the premature end to his season.

Fournier sprained his left knee on March 7 and missed the Magic’s final 17 games of the regular season. Fournier has been outspoken for years about how much he despises missing games, but this time the season-ending injury allowed the veteran to jump-start his thinking on his offseason plans.

``I’m going to be able to work more than usual because I usually go on vacation and get some rest, but I feel like my rest is (the final five weeks of the regular season),’’ Fournier said. ``Right after the season, I’m going to Paris for two weeks, but I’m going to continue to work on my knee, do a lot of rehab and exercises and then I’ll go straight to basketball work and lifting. I’m not going to waste any of my (offseason) because I’m honestly bored. So, I’m going to enjoy my time off now and get back to work early.’’

Fournier’s knee injury was symbolic of a season marred by injuries both for himself and his teammates. The sixth-year NBA player appeared in just 57 games – his fewest since his rookie season in 2012-13 – because of an ankle injury (eight games) and a knee injury (17 games). As a team, the Magic missed more than 200 player games to injuries – a major factor in the team going just 25-57 and falling well short of expectations.

Fournier likely could have returned to play late in the season had the Magic been in the playoff race and he sees no long-term effects of the knee injury that he suffered at Staples Center against the Lakers.

Like many of his teammates, Fournier had high hopes for the Magic this past season and those expectations were ramped up even higher following a promising 6-2 start. However, the Magic were soon hit hard by injuries and they proceeded to fall apart.

Fournier knows that when teams don’t win, changes are usually made to the either the roster or the coaching staff. Already, the Magic have fired head coach Frank Vogel and his entire staff and have started the process of hiring a new mentor for the squad. Next, could come changes to the core of the team – something that Fournier said he can’t afford to worry about. Instead, he’ll get to work on his body and his game in hopes of having a season with fewer injuries.

``It’s the nature of the business, so I don’t really think about it, to be honest,’’ Fournier said. ``You just control what you can control. Obviously, we’re going to make moves this summer. Every team makes moves during the summer. So, we’ll see. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens.’’

Here’s a more in-depth breakdown of Fournier’s 2017-18 season with the Magic:

PLAYER: Evan Fournier
POSITION: Shooting guard/small forward
NBA SEASONS: 6
AGE: 25

2017-18 SEASON STATS: 57 games (57 starts), 17.8 ppg., 3.2 rpg., 2.9 apg., 0.8 spg., 32.2 mpg., 45.9 percent FG, 37.9 percent 3FG, 86.7 percent FT.

2017-18 SEASON HIGHS: 32 points, Jan. 16 vs. Minnesota; nine rebounds, Oct. 20 at Brooklyn; five assists, 10 times, most recently March 2 vs. Detroit; five steals, Nov. 8 vs. New York; two blocks, Oct. 21 at Cleveland; 41 minutes, Dec. 6 vs. Atlanta.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Fournier missed the final 17 games of the regular season, but he still edged out teammate Aaron Gordon (17.6 ppg.) for the team lead in scoring. It is the second straight season that Fournier had led the Magic in scoring. His 17.8 points per game were a career high, as was his rebounding total (3.2 rpg.). Fournier was Orlando’s most consistent shooter and he finished at a solid 45.9 percent from the floor, 37.9 percent from 3-point range and 86.7 percent from the free throw line.

He led or tied for the team league in scoring 16 times and led or tied in the assists lead five times. He had at least 20 points a team-best 22 times. His 32-point effort on Jan. 16 not only allowed the Magic to notch a big home win against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but it proved to be a career high for Fournier.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Fournier’s ankle injury in early December hit the Magic at a time when Gordon was also out, crippling the offense. Orlando didn’t win any of the eight games while he was out with the ankle injury and sealed its fate once again. Down the stretch, the Magic were mostly a mess offensively without Fournier on the floor, showing his importance to the team as a scorer and playmaker.

Fournier is still a work in progress when it comes to being a playmaker for others. Too often, he forces shots in traffic when he and the Magic would be better served with him passing to open teammates. His 2.9 assists this past season nearly equaled his career-best mark (3.0 in 2016-17), but he has the kind of vision and basketball IQ that he should average far more assists for a Magic offense that badly needs his playmaking skills.

FUTURE ROLE WITH MAGIC: Fournier is a critically important player to the Magic because of his abilities as a knock-down 3-point shooter and his willingness to take (and make) shots in difficult, late-clock situations. Fournier has been the Magic’s best offensive player for much of the past three seasons, but injuries have often ruined his rhythm and effectiveness.

Fournier could potentially be one of the causalities of the offseason via a trade, but he will be difficult to deal because of his importance to the Magic and the size of his contract. The only way the Magic trade him away is if they get a bounty of players, prospects or salary cap space in return.

Considering that he can score in a variety of ways, his abilities as a plus 3-point shooter and his positional versatility as a shooting guard and/or a small forward, the Magic would be wise to retain Fournier and build future teams around him. While he isn’t a superstar player, Fournier is easily Orlando’s most complete offensive player and he cares deeply about winning. Odds are that Fournier will return to Orlando next season, and he’s likely to produce great offensive numbers and solid defensive efforts yet again.

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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