Evan Fournier’s trade value is growing but so is his importance to the Orlando Magic

Evan Fournier's return has boosted the Orlando Magic's offense. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Evan Fournier's return has boosted the Orlando Magic's offense. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

Evan Fournier has come in for plenty of criticism during his time with the Orlando Magic. While the team as a whole might not be playing well right now, there is no denying the shooting guard has provided the Magic with an offensive boost since returning from injury.

Evan Fournier was absent for the Orlando Magic’s dismal six-game losing streak earlier this season before returning for the win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Orlando shot the ball really poorly during that run, hitting more than 45-percent of their shots in just one of the games (against the Brooklyn Nets).

Three-point shooting was a big part of the problem. The Magic made less than 30-percent of their 3-point attempts in three of the six games. While the win over Minnesota to break the run was also unimpressive, Evan Fournier’s five field goals from eight attempts helped set up a situation where Cole Anthony could hit an incredible game-winner.

More importantly, it looked like Fournier had not missed a beat. And that has continued.

Orlando may have lost three out of four since then but when it comes to shooting the ball there has been a marked improvement. Fournier’s return is not the only reason for this, but it is certainly a big factor.

As the Orlando Magic struggle to hold their playoff positioning, trade talk is going to heat up surrounding Evan Fournier. But if the team remains in playoff contention, it will become harder to let go of their best shooter.

The Magic made more than 15 threes across a three-game stretch against the Indiana Pacers and the back-to-back with the Charlotte Hornets, the first time in franchise history that has happened. The team hit a season-high 19 in the recent win against the Hornets.

Fournier finished with 26 points in the 120-118 overtime loss to the Indiana Pacers, including making 50-percent of his eight 3-point attempts. He followed it up with a 21-point game in the fourth-quarter collapse against the Hornets before the team bounced back the following night, Fournier again contributing significantly with 19 points and five threes.

Last night’s defeat to the Sacramento Kings was a big blow and saw the team shoot just 41.7-percent from the field. Fournier, though, put in another impressive offensive performance with 25 points including three made three-pointers.

In total, the 28-year-old has attempted 32 threes in the last four games and has made 15 of them. For a team that seriously lacks good shooting, Fournier’s presence on the court is vital.

The team has also been helped by Nikola Vucevic’s incredible consistency, Cole Anthony’s gigantic shooting improvement and the likes of Aaron Gordon, James Ennis and Dwayne Bacon all knocking down shots at a decent rate in some games. But there is no denying that Fournier’s comeback has been imperative in this improvement.

It means the Orlando Magic have a gigantic decision to make.

Fournier took up his player option with the team for this season and is now in the final year of his current contract. An experienced veteran and dependable shooter, Fournier would have a lot to offer a team looking to make the playoffs or contend in the postseason.

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

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  • And certainly, as the team nears the March 14 NBA Trade Deadline, conversations and rumors about Fournier will pick up. It feels unlikely the team will re-sign him this offseason considering the salary cap crunch the team is facing as Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz begin new, high-priced extensions.

    There is no guarantee a team trading for him would have him for more than the rest of the season though. At 28, Fournier is around his prime and may want to test his value in free agency this offseason.

    Shooting importance

    But his performances in the past three games could tempt teams that feel more shooting could be the difference when it comes to taking that next step. It would be a short-term gamble that potentially provides a bigger chance of success, with the chance of keeping him for longer also a possibility.

    The harsh reality for the Orlando Magic is that it is highly unlikely the front office would be able to get back equal value. Evan Fournier is on an expiring contract and the possibility a team might only benefit from his services for a few months lessens the quality of what the Magic can acquire.

    That would also mean trading Fournier would likely torpedo any chance the Magic have of making the playoffs — the team has a team-worst 100.5 offensive rating with Fournier off the floor and a -7.1 net rating with him off the floor.

    The team certainly benefits — a team-best 113.0 offensive rating and -2.2 net rating — with him on the floor. Although certainly there is still ample room for improvement.

    Still, the deadline of both Fournier’s contract and the trade deadline still looms large.

    Looking ahead

    There are a number of ways the team could go with a Evan Fournier trade.

    The front office could look to sign a veteran on a longer contract to replace him in the long-term, though these deals are extremely hard to find and would likely require the team to give up more than just Fournier.

    Orlando could target a team looking to free up cap space for next year, or Fournier could be used in part of a deal for a bigger star. Though the team does not look well placed to receive a big star given the current injury status of the roster.

    Younger players or draft picks could form the basis of a deal for Fournier. But again, teams will not want to give up too much for a player who may not stay longer than this season and is not a superstar.

    It leaves the Magic in a tricky spot. Fournier’s $17-million per year contract is not exactly trade-friendly due to the commitment it would need a team to make for the rest of the season, limiting the options available to the front office. Not to mention teams would have to match salaries to make that deal, limiting the options for players who would have to come back to make such a deal work.

    Orlando Magic
    Orlando Magic /

    Orlando Magic

    The Magic, for their part, are likely still looking to build for the future and remain competitive in 2021. So they will want at least one player who can fit into the team’s rotation both for the rest of this season and into next year.

    Orlando still has big playoff ambitions this season. Injuries have hit the team hard, making Evan Fournier’s presence on the team even more important if Steve Clifford wants to at least make the play-in tournament come the end of the regular season.

    Ultimately, it will come down to what the team’s vision is.

    Injuries have impacted the likelihood of making the playoffs, but the team is still in the hunt for a spot in the play-in tournament.

    The Magic will be much more likely to make the postseason if Fournier stays. He fills a huge shooting void on the roster and the possibility of getting someone back that can contribute as much as he does is slim.

    It means that trading Fournier would probably weaken the team in the short-term as opposed to strengthening it.

    But the future must take precedence at some point. The aim for every team in the NBA has to be to do what you can to put yourself in the best possible position to win a title at some point, even if that means suffering in the short-term for long-term gain.

    If the Magic are unable to stay in the playoff chase, the team’s calculus for what it wants in a deal will surely change too. The season still has to play out.

    Orlando still has a steady playoff core of healthy players in Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier. But if this team is to be more successful in the future, tough decisions will have to be made at some point.

    Next. Orlando Magic burying themselves with poor starts. dark

    Fournier could opt to extend his stay at the Magic, but this might well be his last season in the pinstriped uniform. Keeping him until his contract expires gives the team a better chance of making the playoffs this season, but trading him can help the franchise in the future.