Orlando Magic: Evan Fournier’s Team Now?

The Orlando Magic need some leaders to emerge if they want to be a playoff team again one day. Evan Fournier is looking like that player.

Despite signing a new contract with the Orlando Magic last summer, Evan Fournier has struggled to find consistency this season.

Playing in 45 games so far, injury and lineup changes have meant he has been unable to find a rhythm on the court on many occasions.

However, Monday night’s entertaining win over the Miami Heat potentially signalled the end of this period of Fournier’s career.

Fournier led the team in scoring (24 points), and assists (four). He also logged a team-high 35 minutes on the court and looked comfortable as the team’s go-to offensive weapon down the stretch.

Clearly this was a bright spot for him personally this season, as for one night at least, the team showed what it was capable of when everyone’s on the same page.

Jan 6, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier (10) dribbles the ball during the second half at Amway Center. Houston Rockets defeated the Houston Rockets 100-93. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 6, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier (10) dribbles the ball during the second half at Amway Center. Houston Rockets defeated the Houston Rockets 100-93. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Moving forward however, and with his niggling injuries looking to be behind him, could this actually be Fournier’s team next season?

With Serge Ibaka now gone, Elfrid Payton being moved back to the bench and Terrence Ross still in street clothes, the Magic are crying out for a focal point to bring them forward.

Nikola Vucevic was that guy during their leanest years in the aftermath of the Dwight Howard trade, but he may not make it past the trade deadline either.

That leaves Fournier, who is clearly their most polished offensive player. His game is a mix of slick moves to the basket, and an ability to shoot from deep that he’s had since entering the league.

While the 34.3 percent he’s shooting from three-point range this season is actually a career-low, it can be attributed to becoming a starter and a player opponents key in on.

It’s is also a respectable figure given he shares the court with space crampers like Payton, Bismack Biyombo and Aaron Gordon (who is improving in this area).

More than his scoring punch, which leads the team in points per game with a career-high 16.8, Fournier has also become a more complete attacker.

In three of the team’s last four games, he’s led the Magic in assists (the aforementioned win over the Heat, as well as losses to Philadelphia 76ers and San Antonio Spurs).

Combine this with his scoring outbursts, and we are seeing a player figuring out when to get his and when to set up his teammates.

The All-Star games looks to have come at a bad time for Fournier personally, as he appears to have turned a corner.

Although there’s no question he’d be better suited to being a team’s second (or even third) offensive option, being this team’s go-to guy recently hasn’t fazed him either.

It’s not all good news, however, as being thrust into this position has come with some growing pains.

It should be noted, though, that Ross may yet come in and combine well with Fournier, boosting both of their numbers.

We also need to remember that Victor Oladipo, when forced into this “face of the franchise” role, was inconsistent too.

The same applies to Ibaka. Although he was often the team’s best player, he didn’t seize the opportunity the way he could have.

Really only Vucevic and Arron Afflalo have flourished under the responsiblity, and Fournier will have to step up his game in some areas to fill this roll.

His Player Efficiency Rating of 13.6 is the third-best rating of his five year career. It is also down on last season’s 14.6 (both are below the league average of 15).

His offensive plus/minus rating of +0.4 is also the second-lowest mark of his career to date — this despite having a career-high 23.7 percent usage rating when on the court.

Other numbers worth keeping an eye on (which are career-lows) are his effective field goal percentage (49.5 percent) and turnovers per game (2.3).

So it’s not all good news, but it’s possible to explain away these decreasing numbers in several areas to becoming a more important player for this team.

He’s no longer a shooter off the bench as he was with the Denver Nuggets (38 percent three-point shooter while there).

More is expected of him, but it has not been an altogether smooth transition so far.

Then again, when you’re suddenly expected to lead the second-worst offense and third-worst three-point shooting team in the league, it is not an easy task.

This is why Orlando Magic fans should have optimism about how Evan Fournier will be able to lead this team next season. Already we’re seeing flashes and more consistency, and his numbers will continue to rise to reflect this.

The addition of Terrence Ross and more clearly defined roles for players like Elfrid Payton will also create the stability needed for Fournier to thrive.

General manager Rob Hennigan may be entering his last days on the hot seat with this team, and he’s made many mistakes with the moves he’s made.

Unearthing Evan Fournier was not one of them, and fans should feel confident he can become this team’s leader in the near future.

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