Evan Fournier is the Orlando Magic’s second-quarter MVP

Evan Fournier is the Orlando Magic’s shooting guard of the present and future and he has been the team’s MVP in the second quarter of the season.

After signing a five-year, $85-million contract last July, Evan Fournier has become the Orlando Magic’s shooting guard of the present and future.

The 23-year-old guard is now a steady shooting guard who can evolve into an All Star. Evan Fournier was drafted 20th overall by the Denver Nuggets in 2012, and he has improved his points per game average every year.

The Nuggets traded Fournier to the Magic for Arron Afflalo in June 2014 and he found more playing time. Fournier became a starter in the next three years, including a breakout season in 2016, when he averaged 15.4 points per game and made 40.0 percent of his three-point shots, emerging as a reliable scoring weapon.

The Magic traded Victor Oladipo to the Oklahoma City Thunder because they trusted him to develop further. He has rewarded them, especially in the second quarter of this season.

When healthy, Fournier has been the Magic’s most important player.

With Oladipo gone this year, Fournier’s offensive game increased, as he leads the team with 17.0 points per game. He is shooting 44.3 percent from the floor and 35.8 percent from beyond the arc, making a team-best 1.7 three-pointers and 3.2 free throws per game. He is third on the Magic with 1.244 points per shot.

Fournier is showing his worth to a defensive-minded Orlando team. Maximizing his offensive ability is one of the keys to the Magic’s chances of making the Playoffs.

Fournier led the Magic with 18.5 points per game in 13 games in December. He missed five games with a bruised heel, and he has not been the same since coming back. It is one of the reasons why the Magic have lost five of the last six games.

Fournier had his most productive stretch of the season during seven games before going out with the heel injury, scoring 20 points in six of those contests while averaging 4.6 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.7 three-pointers per game, so the talent is obviously there.

But he has still had his struggled adjusting to his role.

As the starting shooting guard, Fournier has to accept not every shot has to be perfect and understand he is probably the most qualified to take them. He has learned to create shots, not just be an opportune scorer. If he keeps doing this, other players will have better looks.

This is exactly what has impressed about Fournier this season and why he has been the team’s MVP in the second quarter of the season. Fournier has done his best to find open teammates and make opponents pay for guarding him closely. He might be making just 44.3 percent of his shots but he is averaging 3.3 assists per game (a career-high).

The quarter did not end well for Fournier though. His heel injury has hampered him as the second half to the season began.

Last Wednesday, he had his worst game since coming back from the heel injury, finishing with just eight points, two rebounds and two assists in 25 minutes in a 105-96 road loss to the LA Clippers. He failed to reach double digits in scoring for the first time since Dec. 4. He also missed his two 3-point attempts.

Then, Fournier scored just eight points on 3-for-10 shooting (1 for 3 from 3-point range) in 30 minutes in last Friday’s 115-109 win against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Something is definitely not clicking for Evan Fournier, as he is averaging just 11.3 points and 2.8 assists in the last four games. Fournier seemed reluctant to plant on his heel last Friday. It is clear that his injury impacted his performance. He is making only 36.1 percent of his shots and 29.4 percent of his 3-point attempts in his last five games.

Fournier re-injured his right heel against the Trail Blazers. He did not play in last Saturday’s 114-107 loss at Utah. Right now there is no timetable for his return. He will likely miss the remaining games of the Magic’s road trip.

The Magic will certainly miss his contributions — particularly from much of the second quarter of the season — while Fournier is out trying to return from this difficult injury.

With Fournier’s injury struggles, it is hard for the Magic to dig out of their hole. They have gone 1-5 in the last six games to fall to 17-25 on the season, four games behind the Charlotte Hornets for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. It goes to show how important he has been to the team in the second quarter of the season.

It is clear Fournier wants to be part of the Magic. With the signing of his new contract, the team showed Fournier they believe in him and they expect him to be a big part of their plan for years to come.

Fournier’s play the rest of the season is extremely important for the Magic. Without him, an already struggling offense would not have their leading scorer and the intangibles he brings to the table, like his versatility and balance.

The Magic will go as Evan Fournier goes, which is exactly why he was the team’s second-quarter MVP.

Fournier has to come back, stay healthy and keep taking a leap forward. He has to become a leader and become a greater scoring threat or the Orlando Magic will be watching the playoffs from home.

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