Evan Fournier is one of the best shooters on the team with a gravity defenses have to respect. But he failed to make defenses pay as his shot fell short.
Evan Fournier has always been extremely honest with himself and to the media. He is not one to beat around the bush. And he will be the first one to tell you if he did something wrong or is struggling in some way.
Evan Fournier on several occasions this season would matter-of-factly say he played poorly (using more colorful language) or offer no excuse or explanation for his poor shooting. During his exit interview, he acknowledged his shooting was not up to his standards this year.
That was undoubtedly the case. And no game exemplified Fournier’s struggles better than the biggest moment of the season.
With the Orlando Magic struggling to keep up with the Toronto Raptors, the team desperately needed an outlet and some outside shooting to loosen up the defense. The ball would find Fournier and he would look as flustered and rushed as everyone else with the oncoming defense.
But in Game 3, the ball found him again and again in open shooting positions, opportunities he would need to convert. And he continued to miss.
His 1-for-12 shooting performance, including 1 for 8 on 3-pointers, in Game 3 was a huge turning point. The Magic needed him to make open shots and he missed a lot, going 7 for 29 (24.1 percent) on 3-pointers where the closest defender was more than four feet away.
Those were missed opportunities during the playoff series. It hurt the team. If Fournier hits 3-pointers at the level he and the team are accustomed to, the series with the Raptors could have been much different.
The whole season might have been different if Fournier hit his shots at a more regular rate. This was just not a good year for Fournier in general. The missed shots that plagued him in the playoffs were a continuation of his regular season struggles.
For the first time in his career, Fournier averaged fewer points per game this year than the previous year. His 15.1 points per game were still valuable and he was still a quality player — showing improvements as a playmaker in averaging a career-best 3.6 assists per game and steady improvement as a defender, gaining coach Steve Clifford’s trust.
But Fournier has one key role on this team.
On a team bereft of shooting, Fournier’s key role is to make 3-pointers and space the floor. He still did the latter as he has defense’s respect as a shooter. That has value in itself. But he needed to make shots at a more consistent rate.
Fournier is a better passer and playmaker, but his natural instincts are still to score. And without consistent, efficient scoring, Fournier’s effectiveness goes down dramatically.
Fournier still had a positive effective field goal percentage (relatively) at 50.9 percent. That is in line with his averages. But his 3-point field goal percentage dipped dramatically from 37.9 percent to a career-low 34.0 percent.
On open 3-pointers, where the closest opponent is more than four feet away, Fournier shot just 34.8 percent. Last year, he shot 38.9 percent on such shots.
That four percentage point difference may not seem like much, but that could turn into one or two made shots per game.
Considering how many close games the Magic played, that is the difference of a few wins on several occasions potentially. And Orlando fell just one game short of finishing in sixth and needed to clinch a playoff spot on the penultimate game of the season.
To be sure, Fournier made some big shots. He had game-winning buzzer beaters against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons this season. He remains a solid late-game player who is unafraid of big moments and will hit big shots.
Fournier though was at a loss throughout the season to explain his various shooting droughts. Every time it seemed like he was turning the corner as a shooter and starting to hit shots, he would hit a roadblock and go cold for several games.
He did not have the big scoring outbursts and hot shooting stretches that have characterized his tenure with the team. He just did not provide the consistent shooting the Magic have come accustomed to.
Credit Fournier for still finding ways to contribute.
Clifford defended Fournier excessively throughout the season. Fournier said after the season he was pleased he was able to grow as a playmaker. And at 26 years old, there is still room for him to continue to grow there. His defense was better than it has ever been, albeit still probably not a net positive in the end.
At the end of the day, Fournier’s main role is to shoot the ball. That is his best skill and what made him so valuable to the Magic. This was the first year where his contract really seemed to weigh on the team. The Magic needed a bit more form his position and he took a step back it felt like for the first time in his career.
Fournier would probably agree with some of this assessment. He is a realist about who he is and what he can bring the team.
He can sit back and be happy he slowly began to expand his game. But his primary role and purpose on this team fell short. The Magic need his 3-point shooting. And there, he fell woefully short of what the team needed.
That became more apparent in the playoffs. His misses on open shots particularly were the difference between a blowout five-game series and perhaps competing a little bit more.
Published at Thu, 02 May 2019 16:31:15 +0000