Evan Fournier can make the Orlando Magic’s offense dangerous. But he has to change his approach to fit the fast-paced style that finally unlocked the team.
At face value, Evan Fournier has had a strong season averaging a career-high 18.8 points per game on 47.0-percent shooting from the field and 40.6-percent from three.
But with the decision on Fournier’s future upcoming this offseason — Fournier has the ability to opt-out of the final year of his deal — the question of whether Fournier can fit into the Magic’s future must be answered.
And now there are just eight games plus whatever the Playoffs look like to solve that. Even if Fournier accepts his player option and stays on for another year, he will surely be one of the bigger trade pieces the Magic have to dangle as they look for ways to improve their team.
Although Fournier is a good player and has given Orlando a lot of good minutes and years, there is no question his fit with the current roster is questionable. In the last few seasons, Fournier has taken up the role of being the primary creator and closer for the Magic.
A matter of usage
The time where the Orlando Magic rely so heavily on Evan Fournier to create offense should be coming to an end. Especially as Markelle Fultz continues to mature.
Fultz averaged 5.2 assists per game and has closed out games for Orlando in Fournier’s absence — think his breakthrough triple-double against the Los Angeles Lakers. He has done this while still maintaining a fairly regular 20.7-percent usage rate.
Meanwhile, Evan Fournier trails only Nikola Vucevic with a 24.2 percent usage rate. Essentially nearly one-quarter of all the possessions while Fournier is in the game end with Fournier either taking the shot or turning it over.
It should be noted the Magic are still fairly balanced. There are no ball-dominant players sucking up shots or possessions from anyone else. Orlando still works fairly well together.
In the recent games before the league went on hiatus, Gordon was also proving to be a better playmaker when Fournier plays a lesser role. In the last six games, Aaron Gordon averaged 7.3 assists per game.
Orlando continued its offensive surge even with Fournier on the shelf for the final three games before the league took its pause. At the very least, this seemed to confirm some narratives fans had about Fournier and his role and fit with the team moving forward.
Evan Fournier’s place in the Orlando Magic’s new pace
There is at least something to that. Evan Fournier’s style may not fit the kind of high-paced game the Orlando Magic ultimately want — or need — to play.
There are too many times when Fournier stops the ball and sizes up the defense instead of attacking. This allows for the defense to rotate despite being in a scramble. This is a connection to why the Magic’s offense struggles.
While Fournier is a strong pick-and-roll player — 0.95 points per possession as the ball handler in pick and rolls, placing him in the 78th percentile — it is still not the most efficient and best play for the Magic.
Slowing the offense down to set up these pick-and-roll plays, especially without the benefit of good floor spacing, leads to the kind of bogged-down offense that has hurt the Magic all year.
But Fournier can make the Magic’s offense dangerous. He is a great shooter and a good driver when he is attacking a rotating defense. This Fournier fits better with Fultz and Gordon and allows them to play-make and allows him to be a scorer.
Fournier needs to play without hesitation and as a scorer. And he has always been at his best when the defense is rotating to him and he drives aggressively against them.
He has not been effective as an isolation player — just 0.79 points per possession on isolation plays this year.
Orlando Magic’s chance to reset
The opportunity in front of the Magic now with a training camp to reset itself and the time to study all the team’s games is the chance to put the ball in other playmakers’ hands like Fultz and Gordon to dish the ball out to Fournier.
That is where Fournier can be most effective. It should increase his efficiency and maintain the scoring Orlando relies so much on. And those pick-and-roll plays will always be there for him, especially late in games.
When Fournier constantly plays in motion and without hesitation, it greatly improves the Magic’s offense.
Orlando tends to play with this style when Fournier is out of the lineup. The team’s pace with Fournier on the court is 99.9 possessions per 48 minutes and 100.5 possessions per 48 minutes with him off the court.
In the last three games played without Fournier, the Magic averaged 126.0 points per game. The Magic kept up their league-best offense from the 10 games after the All-Star Break.
Orlando started Wesley Iwundu in these games.
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Wesley Iwundu does not take up very many possessions because of his poor shooting. He is not about to stop the ball.
Indeed, he had a usage rate of only 15.0 percent in his last five games. Iwundu is not out there to score or do much of anything offensively except run the floor, cut to the basket when it is open and hit the occasional open 3-pointer to keep the defense honest.
Iwundu has played well when the Magic are able to find him minutes. That part has been difficult for him.
But he is not the offensive player Fournier is. And the Playoffs will expose the Magic’s offensive deficiencies. The team still needs Fournier at his best. The question is whether the Magic can optimize Fournier and the players around him.
If Fournier can take up that faster style of offense, then the Magic’s offense would be able to run smoother.
There is no question Fournier is a good offensive player, but he has tendencies that hurt the Magic’s offense. And that does not go well with the young core.
But if Fournier can play a style that has less hesitation and more of attacking style, then he would be able to fit in more with the current roster.
Based on how Fournier plays once the season continues, the Magic are going have to decide on Fournier’s future. But there is still a way to make the most of the time they had and figure that out.