With the Orlando Magic sputtering toward a the bottom of the league standings, what can we expect them to do with shooting guard Evan Fournier as the trade deadline approaches?
We’re a bit more than halfway through the NBA season and the Orlando Magic are already on another trip down the boulevard of broken dreams. After some unsustainable shooting propelled the Magic to an 8-4 start, they’ve crashed back down to earth in emphatic fashion. Orlando is currently sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, sporting the league’s fourth worst point differential at -5.5.
With an awkward roster and a few bad contracts on the books, the Magic seem poised to gut the team and bottom out. That’s a frightening prospect for a fan base that has suffered through years of incompetence in the wake of the Dwight Howard trade. With a new management regime in place under Jeff Weltman however, perhaps a rebuild will work better this time around. In any case, the Magic have effectively made almost everyone on the roster available. They seem to be actively pursuing trades for Evan Fournier, Mario Hezonja and Elfrid Payton in particular. So far, only Fournier has garnered any interest around the league.
Fournier is currently in year two of a five-year deal worth $85 million. That’s a fairly hefty price tag for a guard that has never even garnered All-Star consideration. Fournier’s contract might be tricky to take on for many teams, especially due to the league’s increasingly fragile cap situation. He’s not nearly as overpaid as many other guys that received contracts during the 2016 spending bonanza though. Fournier can actually play, especially on the offensive side of the ball. He’s got a diverse game on that end of the floor, which makes him a potential fit for numerous teams.
The 25-year-old Frenchman is a career 38 percent shooter from 3-point land. This season he’s just below the 40 percent threshold and he’s been especially dangerous on catch-and-shoot opportunities, draining just a hair under two 3-pointers per game on such looks. Fournier also brings some skill as a driver to the table. He’s shooting 64 percent at the rim and gets to the basket pretty frequently, driving 9 times per game.
With a dearth of creative players on the Magic, he’s also run a ton of pick and rolls this year. Only Jonathon Simmons and Elfrid Payton orchestrate more pick-based action for Orlando. Fournier is competent as the ball handler in those actions, scoring 0.86 points per possession on such plays. He’s not turnover prone either, making him a reasonable option to run such plays when called upon. Fournier is definitely capable, but if he’s one of the best pick and roll option on your team though, you’re probably in trouble.
On the other side of the ball, Fournier has never had a reputation as a good defender. Although he showed signs of improvement during Orlando’s hot start, his metrics on that end have been generally abysmal. Most heavy minute lineups featuring Fournier have been unmitigated disasters on the defensive end. Of course Orlando has been a complete disaster on defense this year. The Magic are firmly stuck in the league’s bottom five in defensive efficiency. So perhaps there is some noise in Fournier’s individual numbers.
A trade involving Fournier seems somewhat unlikely at this point. He’s not the type of guy that’s going to put a contender over the top. And he’s also set to make $17 million per season through the end of the 2021 season (assuming he exercises his fifth year player option). The Magic own all of their future picks and have a few picks incoming from past trades as well, but they are thin on tangible assets. Aside from Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac, Fournier might be the best asset on this team. That’s a bit alarming as the market for Fournier seems tepid at best.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the Detroit Pistons contacted the Magic earlier this year to ask about Fournier. Talks between the two teams have apparently gained little traction though. The Pistons, who are pushing to make noise in the playoffs, have struggled on offense as the year has progressed. They could theoretically use a guy like Fournier, but a finding a workable trade is tough. Asking for a first-rounder or a young talent like Stanley Johnson from Detroit might be a deal breaker. If the Magic took back the bad salary of Jon Leuer or Langston Galloway, they might be able to extract a pick out of Detroit.
The Mavericks are a possible suitor as well, although again a deal might be contingent on accepting dead salary. The Mavs will pursue some of the league’s top free agents in the summer; they could look to clear cap space as early as the February deadline. A deal could be easier to construct if Orlando were to take on some combination of the Wes Matthews, Dwight Powell and Nerlens Noel troika.
Finally, if a total rebuild is unpalatable, Orlando could dangle Fournier to get into the running for Kemba Walker. Charlotte is looking to unload bad contracts and get some youngsters or picks return for Walker. These negotiations would complicated fast though. Any deal would probably have to include Marvin Williams’ deal. With so many years left on Fournier’s contract, getting a trade done would almost certainly require Orlando to throw in a future first and perhaps Elfrid Payton as well. Even so, the Magic landing Kemba seems unlikely.