Where we last left the Orlando Magic: Evan Fournier’s career year won’t stop

Evan Fournier has put in a career year that has somehow been overshadowed by questions of the Orlando Magic's future. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Evan Fournier has put in a career year that has somehow been overshadowed by questions of the Orlando Magic's future. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

Evan Fournier was on a torrid pace, putting up a career year that very well saved the Orlando Magic’s season and should deliver them to the Playoffs again.

There is a narrative that has settled in with Orlando Magic fans.

Born out of the frustration of six years of scraping the bottom of the NBA’s barrel and the players who represented that era, there is a desire to move on to the next era. A second straight year in the bottom of the Playoff standings is undeniable progress but only intensifies the anticipation for what comes next and how the team will grow.

It is not where everyone wants to be.

The Magic, despite what is likely to be a second straight year in the Playoffs, are still a rebuilding team. They are young and growing, not yet fully realized.

This feeling only increases the anticipation for the future. And that anticipation makes it easy to forget what people have in the present.

The narrative that goes around certain circles of fans is Evan Fournier is not a player who fits what the Magic ultimately want to be. He is a player taking possessions and opportunities away from players the Magic want to develop and grow.

To this group of fans, the Magic’s final three games before the season went on hiatus was proof of how Evan Fournier no longer fit. It was a sign the team was ready to move on.

That day may yet come. These are weighty decisions the front office has to make as it maps out its future. And the evidence is more mixed than the simple narratives and information fans have access to.

The reality is — whether it is a contract season, remnants from a stellar run at the FIBA World Cup or something else — Fournier put together the best season of his career.

He proved to be a vital and important piece of the Magic’s puzzle. In a season of inconsistency and injury, Fournier proved to be the team’s rock, providing the same consistency Nikola Vucevic provided during his All-Star season.

Everyone with the Magic might end up disappointed the team did not take that hopeful next step. Orlando’s season ultimately dropped the team right back where it was last year — by their record at least, perhaps a bit behind.

But that was not for a lack of trying from Fournier. It is safe to say the Magic would not have even maintained their level without Fournier this season.

Fournier averaged a career-best 18.8 points per game. His 56.4-percent effective field goal percentage is the highest of his time with the Magic — his career-high was from his rookie year when he averaged only 11.3 minutes per game. His overall 47.0-percent field goal percentage is the highest of his career since he became a regular rotation player.

This was undoubtedly Fournier’s breakout season. A level of play that Fournier hinted at several times in his career, but never quite put together fully. And certainly not for a team with playoff aspirations.

Evan Fournier maintains the present

Live Feed

Bleacher Report's star trade idea finally rids Knicks of Evan Fournier
Bleacher Report's star trade idea finally rids Knicks of Evan Fournier /

Daily Knicks

  • Should the Boston Celtics bring back former trade deadline splash?Hardwood Houdini
  • Evan Fournier finally accepts Knicks may not trade him before season startsDaily Knicks
  • France eliminated from FIBA World Cup and everyone is pointing fingers at Rudy GobertFanSided
  • 2023 FIBA World Cup Day 3 Recap: France eliminated, the Dennis Schroder show, and Karl-Anthony Towns defeats ItalyFanSided
  • Knicks' Evan Fournier needs to do more to fulfill World Cup "launchpad" hopeDaily Knicks
  • It can be so easy to get caught up in the promise and mystery of the future that you lose sight of the present.

    It is not that these questions are not important. But it depreciates something special that happened in the present. Even if that was not quite what everyone hoped for from the start of the season.

    But with the Orlando Magic’s season on the line in November with both Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic out with ankle injuries, Evan Fournier kept the team afloat.

    Orlando went 5-6 in the games Vucevic missed. Fournier averaged 24.1 points per game and shot 44.3 percent from beyond the arc. All this while seeing his usage rate increase.

    What is quite amazing about Fournier and his season is he has provided consistency without requiring a high usage rate.

    Fournier ranks respectably among the league in some key offensive categories too. He has been a solid offensive option. It was a shame he did not get any real All-Star buzz because he has played like it the entire season.

    Fournier ranks in the 78th percentile as the ball handler in pick and rolls, scoring 0.95 points per possession and shooting a 48.9-percent effective field goal percentage in that category.

    Fournier has also proven adept at scoring off the move — this is probably still where he can be most effective. He ranks in the 71st percentile working off handoffs, scoring 1.02 points per possession and a 54.8-percent effective field goal percentage.

    He ranks in the 99th percentile in scoring off cuts, averaging 1.67 points per possessions on a 77.4 percent effective field goal percentage, although on just 0.5 field goal attempts per game and 0.6 possessions per game.

    If the Magic keep Fournier, this could be an area of his game they could look to explore. Because that is the advantage from Fournier. He works so well off the ball because of his shooting. The Magic could get much more imaginative in how they use him.

    Evan Fournier adds to Orlando Magic’s balance

    On a team with little shooting, Evan Fournier is one of the guys who has shot the ball consistently. And that has proven itself consistently this year.

    On spot-up opportunities, Fournier ranks in the 85th percentile scoring 1.17 points per possession with a 60.5-percent effective field goal percentage. He is shooting a 65.4-percent effective field goal percentage on 1.7 3-point field goal makes per game on catch-and-shoot opportunities, according to Second Spectrum.

    His 5.3 points per game on catch-and-shoot opportunities trails only Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross. That suggests Fournier has had to create a lot more than in previous years.

    More from Orlando Magic Daily

    He is not averaging a career-high in assists this year, but he is close at 3.2 assists per game and a 16.5 percent assist rate. It is close to last year’s career marks even if it does not reach that level.

    The Magic have a fairly balanced attack — Vucevic leads the team with a 25.8-percent usage rate, followed closely by Fournier at 24.2 percent. Essentially. Vucevic and Fournier use up about a quarter of all possessions with either a shot or turnover when they are in the game. Typically, star players are closer to 30 percent — with some extreme examples greater than 30-percent.

    Last year, Vucevic was at a 28 percent usage rate. Orlando relied a lot more on him last year than this year.

    Part of the team’s struggles this year is likely from this offensive change. The Magic have had to find a way to make things work with a different plan of attack. And some of those adjustments worked and some of them did not.

    Injuries certainly laid to waste some of the Magic’s greater plans. That has probably put the ball in Fournier’s hands more than it should.

    The real narrative when it comes to Fournier — and really much of the Magic roster — is how the team has had to ask more of him than they probably should.

    Fournier is an effective pick-and-roll player for sure. But he is probably most effective and consistent when he can attack rotating defenses and spotting up for three. He is capable of taking on that larger role when it is called for, but probably not as the primary attacker.

    As the Magic have tried to grow young players — especially Markelle Fultz — they have come to rely on Fournier though. He is the veteran the coaching staff trusts.

    While he may not be everything fans imagine, he has been extremely effective. And no one should lose sight of that.

    Evan Fournier remains vital

    The elbow injury he suffered just before the season shut down helped feed some of the narrative that he was somehow holding the team back. That is undoubtedly untrue.

    If the Orlando Magic decide to shift playmaking and ballhandling duties away from Evan Fournier, they can still count on and expect Fournier to contribute a ton. He might even benefit from that because it will play greater to his strengths.

    And Fournier absolutely will not go away. He will still be a vital player on the team and a key to the offensive attack — if not still one of the team’s leading scorers.

    Fournier and the Magic will have a key decision to make this offseason when Fournier can opt out of the final year of his contract. To be sure, this franchise’s future is not written yet either. Everything, especially with Fournier, still seems in some flux.

    Next. Advantage in the bubble goes to the teams in shape. dark

    But the undoubted reality of the Magic’s 2020 season is that Fournier has had a career year and is critical to what looks like a second straight Playoff appearance.