The Orlando Magic are a team that need to make offseason moves to try and become relevant again, but is Evan Fournier’s contract holding them back?
Now is a time of reflection for the Orlando Magic, as their extremely poor season winds down and attentions turn to trying to nab as high a pick as possible in this summer’s NBA Draft Lottery.
There is no overnight fix for a franchise stuck in the position this one finds itself in, while a return to the playoffs feels further away than ever.
There are plenty of negatives and areas that one can pick at when it comes to the Magic, with everybody from the head coach to other players on the team coming under the microscope.
Even Evan Fournier, at one point earlier in the season the darling of this team, is no longer safe. Losing has made people question whether or not he is the kind of player who can lead a squad back to the playoffs.
He is, however, being paid like it, making $17 million this year, tied for the highest amount on the team. The other player making that much? Center Bismack Biyombo, and we have already dissected just how horrendous his contract is for this team.
Fournier’s deal isn’t quite on that level, but the more this team loses and the less he drags them toward being competitive, the harder it will be to swallow as time goes on.
This begs the slightly different question: If Fournier’s contract isn’t completely awful, just how much could it hold this team back in the future?
You would think Fournier and his deal would be moveable if that is the direction this organization wants to go in this summer. That shouldn’t be off the table either, as the front office should really be up for taking calls on every single player on this roster.
But the reality is, Fournier is the 59th-highest paid player in the league this season. Obviously deals are going to be signed this summer and beyond, but as it stands, the following is true.
Next season Fournier will be the 61st-highest paid player in the league, the year after that (2019-20) he’ll be 54th and the last year of his deal he’ll be 26th. That doesn’t make for great reading, but it is also fair to say those numbers can be bent to look worse than they are when we know other players will overtake Fournier with bigger deals.
What is worrisome is Fournier will be 29 when his deal with the team expires, so he is being paid like a player in his prime just before he actually hits it. Right now Fournier is making more money than the likes of Draymond Green, Tobias Harris, Thaddeus Young and Eric Gordon, but what is he giving the team?
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This year, he’s giving career highs in scoring (17.8 points per game), rebounds (3.2 per game) and Player Efficiency Rating (15.5). That PER rating is slightly misleading though, as it is only slightly higher than the league average of 15.
It is still the third-best mark on the team, but is it wrong to expect more from a guy who clearly has a polished offensive game?
This is reflected in the fact the Magic have an offensive rating of 109.3 when Fournier is on the court. That is also the best mark of his career personally and a real plus for the player and his team, especially since the Magic have a rating of 103.5 in this category on the season as a whole. When Fournier is on the court, they have the sixth-best offense in the league.
Clearly then, Fournier is doing something right, and although his the team’s defensive rating when he is on the floor is 109.3 (a career low), Fournier wasn’t acquired to lock up opponents.
There is also a much larger problem for this team defensively that head coach Frank Vogel must address, with essentially all of the Magic’s key players having the worst seasons of their careers in that area.
So we can’t peg Fournier’s defensive inefficiencies exclusively on him. It is still hard to escape the fact he is being paid to be arguably the face of the franchise, and he is lacking in several areas.
Although the complaints about how often he held onto the ball were minimal earlier in the season when the team was doing well, they have grown louder now. Fournier has a usage rate of 23.3 percent when on the court, yet his 3-point shooting percentage (37.9 percent) is right on his career average.
He is attempting more field goal attempts per game than ever before too (14.1), but his effective field goal percentage of 53.8 percent is only slightly above (52.5 percent) his career average.
That being said, he is converting 86.7 percent of his free throws (a career high) despite getting there over one time less per game than last season (3.0 per game, compared to 4.1 before).
It seems that for every drawback or criticism of Fournier’s game, there is something to like offensively about what he brings to the team.
Yes he holds onto the ball too long, but what other options do this team have? He’s shooting more than ever, but he’s better or the same as he’s been in these statistical categories.
Unfortunately, that may be the problem here. Fournier is really good when he wants to be, he just hasn’t taken that next step we were teased with earlier in the 2017-18 campaign.
In some ways that is all right, because he is still quite young and looks like he still has room for growth. The real problem is that he’s being paid like a borderline breakout star, which he is not.
That makes the player hard to move. What team in the league would pay him $17 million to be one of their three best players?
The cap explosion of a few years back feels like a distant memory, and right now the Orlando Magic are stuck with a player who they’ll owe $17 million for the next three seasons after this one.
While he might still come around, all Evan Fournier is doing right now is eating up more cap space than he can justify, and it will hold this team back as it attempts to grow.
His contract is nowhere near the levels of bad that Bismack Biyombo’s deal is, as Fournier gives the team too much offensively for that to be the case.
But most fans would like to get out from under it, especially with Aaron Gordon going to get paid this summer and the Magic preserving any slim hope of signing an All-Star caliber player in the coming offseasons.