NBA Free Agency: Orlando Magic decisions begin in backcourt

Feb 21, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier (10), guard Victor Oladipo (5) and teammates high five against the Indiana Pacers during the second half at Amway Center. Indiana Pacers defeated the Orlando Magic 105-102. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 21, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier (10), guard Victor Oladipo (5) and teammates high five against the Indiana Pacers during the second half at Amway Center. Indiana Pacers defeated the Orlando Magic 105-102. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic will eventually have to come to terms with the fact the team has to choose between Evan Fournier and Victor Oladipo.

Logic dictates the Orlando Magic cannot re-sign nor keep all the talent on the roster. Specifically, the Magic may have to choose between Evan Fournier and Victor Oladipo. Both at this point seem to be worth a max contract and the Magic cannot afford that and bring in others to improve the roster.

If Orlando is to retain both Fournier and Oladipo, it would require going deep into the luxury tax.

Is such a move a winning proposition with a team lacking shooters?

That is where the argument for Fournier begins. He is Orlando’s best marksman. But this season, he has put the ball on the floor more, and the result is he is scoring in the mid-range while creating for teammates. Fournier is the only one who can get it cooking some nights.

If the Magic relinquished him, could the team still spread the court? Orlando’s roster is not rife with good shooters, and Fournier is the guy Orlando looks to when it needs a 3-point bucket. He performs an important role on the team, and even if Fournier is just a role player, he serves his purpose quite well.

But then there is a strong argument for Victor Oladipo, too.

He is Orlando’s best defensive player and is capable of utterly taking over games with his two-way play. Oladipo is second on the team in scoring at 16 points per game entering Sunday’s game. In some senses he is the closest thing the Magic have to a superstar.

Oladipo does have a “star appeal,” but can he make the leap from here to being an All-Star? He struggled to do so with those expectations this year.

He has a stronger case than Fournier of being a top option on a winning team.

One of the biggest issues with Oladipo is he is a shooting guard with an average shot. His 3-point shot is falling at about a 35 percent clip. Ideally, he gets that mark better than 38 percent, but as it is Oladipo is most effective in the mid-range.

Oladipo’s game is efficient and respectable, but he is less capable of igniting runs with his jumper. That is Fournier’s realm.

Fournier is now averaging 15.0 points per game on 45.8 percent shooting. He gets to the line nearly as much as Oladipo (2.9 attempts per game), and he has shown this season he can put the ball on the floor and create. Fournier averages 2.6 assists per game.

Oladipo is good for 4.0 assists per contest. He seems to be more focused on drawing contact now, shoring up a persistent weakness of his.

Both are capable of creating plays.

The Magic in this case will have to choose between two very good options, but both players are unlikely ever to be elite.

But which is the best? Which option would best accentuate the team and the direction it is going?

Off hand, the argument for Oladipo hinges on his defensive play to a large degree. Fournier is an average defender, and at the 3-spot he is often overmatched.

The Magic do have Aaron Gordon to cover tough forwards, but that switch leaves Orlando exposed if the team has a dominant 3/4 combination. The Milwaukee Bucks most recently exploited this shortcoming with their long, athletic lineup.

And that is a big issue for the Magic: With both Fournier and Oladipo on the roster, it requires playing small ball with Fournier at the 3-spot. It is not optimal when Fournier draws a matchup like Giannis Antetokounmpo or even Carmelo Anthony.

The bigger and stronger 3s can punish Fournier, who is not the longest nor most athletic swingman to understate the matter. But then Oladipo is also undersized as a 2-guard.

Trading Tobias Harris critically weakened Orlando at small forward, and it leaves the team eager to address the matter in free agency. But is it worth it to give Fournier $20 million per year (possibly) or is he too much of a role player? The gamble in some senses seems to be higher risk with Oladipo, but he also has the higher reward.

The answer is not easy, but it is easy to be diplomatic and assert that both have their benefits.

Fournier is the kind of player capable of playing big minutes and enhancing a second unit. On the other hand, Oladipo can take over a game with his turnover-forcing abilities and desire to get out in transition.

The Magic are at their best when both are clicking, but their careers are somehow at a crossroads — intertwined — and the Magic are left to make a risky decision either way.

It is quite possible Fournier or Oladipo could go on and absolute explode on another team. But right now, their positional aspects leave them in direct competition for a contract.

The Magic do have Fournier’s Bird Rights in free agency, so in theory the Magic could pursue whichever free agents and then go over the cap to retain Fournier. But that would only make it more difficult to retain Oladipo when his contract is up — Oladipo is eligible for an extension this summer and hits restricted free agency if there is no agreement in 2017.

So, which should it be, Fournier or Oladipo?

There is a way to keep both, but keep in mind how much it would sting the pockets to run deep into the luxury tax. And how much better does that make the Magic as a team?

Related Story: Milwaukee Bucks' length stifles Evan Fournier

But with the nature of reality, the Magic will have to make a decision one way or the other, and it is just far from easy with both Fournier and Oladipo offering so much and in such different ways..