Orlando Magic Season Review: What Went Right — Evan Fournier’s Role

Apr 6, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier (10) drives the ball down court during the second half of a basketball game against the Detroit Pistons at Amway Center. The Pistons won 108-104. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 6, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier (10) drives the ball down court during the second half of a basketball game against the Detroit Pistons at Amway Center. The Pistons won 108-104. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

Evan Fournier was an important piece to this Orlando Magic team, specifically on offense, due to his skill-set and how he was used in Scott Skiles‘ system.

When the Orlando Magic traded one of their best players in Arron Afflalo to the Denver Nuggets on Draft night in 2014, most fans were puzzled by their return of a second round pick (Devyn Marble) and a player who had played limited minutes in his first few years in the league.

Fast forward two years, and Magic fans are definitely aware of what Evan Fournier brings to the table. And hoping he does that in Orlando for a long, long time.

When Scott Skiles was first hired as head coach, many people thought Fournier would become the odd-man out on a team filled with wings. He would be the one coming off the bench to anchor the second unit so Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo could lead the team in the starting lineup.

But Fournier improved his game and became a very important part of this Magic team. Fournier was one of the most consistent players on the Magic offensively this year, and he helped Skiles’ offense flow.

He averaged 15.4 points per game and 2.7 assists per game, and he had a very strong 46.2 percent shooting from the floor, 40 percent from beyond the arc and 83.6 percent shooting from the line. Fournier became the one taking big shots and running the offense in key moments. The Magic relied heavily on him at times, and he largely produced.

Fournier was 14th out of all shooting guards in Offensive Real Plus Minus, a regression-based metric created by ESPN to measure a player’s on-court impact. He was second on the Magic and tied for 50th overall in that category.

Fournier brings a skill set to the table that is consistent with the current direction of the NBA: He is a strong 3-point shooter and able to consistently attack the basket and get high percentage layups.

This skill set is especially important for a Magic team which lacked the ability to make these high-efficiency shots.

About 35 percent of Fournier’s field goal attempts were from within five feet, and he hit them at 60.2 percent. About 41 percent of his field goal attempts were from 3-point range, which he hit at 40.5 percent.

Attempting threes and the ability to make them at a high percentage are both statistically significant factors in determining wins, and Fournier helped the Magic out big time with those skills.

His shooting threat gives the Magic high-efficiency shots from him and opens the floor for better shots for his teammates.

His true shooting percentage, which factors in the weight of 3-point opportunities and free throws, was second on the team behind only low-usage center Dewayne Dedmon.

Fournier was not only contributing big raw numbers with his scoring, but was doing so efficiently. He slowly saw more attention coming from opposing defenses. After some adjustment, he began to thrive again.

Even in those moments — and even when he returned to the bench for a short spell — he was a huge part of the offense. And Skiles trusted him enough on both ends that he was second on the team in minutes played.

He was trusted often with the ball, and was the focal point of the offense late in games. The ball was usually swung toward him, and the bigs often set screens to open him up for shots or rolls to the rim.

He took advantage of the opportunities given to him in the offense, and put up a strong performance for the year.

Fournier is not a superstar player yet. He had his inconsistencies and defensively he still had his struggles, although he generally found himself in the right position.

At first glance, it would appear Fournier is lacking some on the defensive end. According to Basketball-Reference, he had a -1.4 defensive box plus-minus, meaning Fournier’s defensive contributions were 1.4 points per 100 possessions worse than the average player. It was still the best mark of his career, but there is still room for improvement.

Some of it came from playing somewhat out of position.

He had his struggles with keeping fast guards in front of him, but overall he showed a solid enough effort on the defensive end to convince Skiles to keep him in the lineup. Fournier also was tasked with guarding bigger small forwards and had to hold his own. Sometimes he was simply overmatched, but there was never questioning his effort.

Related Story: What Went Wrong: The Tobias Harris Trade

His ability to play both ends of the floor and the trust Skiles had in him likely made Tobias Harris somewhat expendable. Fournier was just a more effective small forward and the Magic needed to create minutes and more opportunities for him.

Overall, Skiles used Fournier to his advantage, and he was a vital piece in helping the offense flow as well as putting in a consistent effort on the defensive end, despite often times being a bit overmatched against the league’s premier talent.

Fournier may be looking at a big offer involving eight digits per year as he enters restricted free agency this summer. The Magic will have to decide whether or not they want to keep him for the long term.