By John Denton
April 24, 2017
ORLANDO – For a fifth consecutive season, the Orlando Magic are being forced to watch the NBA playoffs instead of participate in them. That happened because the team fell well short of expectations and won just 29 games.
Major changes are likely ahead – as evidenced by the recent firings of GM Rob Hennigan and Assistant GM Scott Perry – following a season worth of struggles. Still, there were plenty of positives to come out of the season considering the major strides made by some of Orlando’s key players.
Head coach Frank Vogel, who recently completed his first season with the Magic, feels the Magic aren’t as far away from becoming a playoff team as some might think following a difficult season. He is excited that much of the Magic’s core is signed through next season and should return barring some major personnel moves in the offseason.
Orlando has plenty of avenues with which to upgrade its roster this offseason. The Magic possess two first-round picks and they will find out the position of their top selection in the May 16 NBA Draft Lottery. The actual NBA Draft is slated for June 22. Free agency, where the Magic figure to have a much as $25 million to spend, opens on July 1.
Before looking ahead too much, OrlandoMagic.com will look back at the regular season that just ended. We’ll break down what went right and what went wrong with many of the Magic’s key players over the next few weeks. Without further ado, here is today’s player analysis:
PLAYER: Evan Fournier
POSITION: Shooting guard/small forward
NBA SEASONS: 5
2016-17 SEASON STATS: 68 games (66 starts), 17.2 ppg., 3.1 rpg., 3.0 apg., 1.0 spg., 43.9 percent FG, 35.6 percent 3FG, 80.5 percent FT.
CAREER NBA STATS: 319 games (171 starts), 12.3 ppg., 2.6 rpg., 2.2 apg., 0.8 spg., 44.5 FG percent, 37.9 3FG percent, 79.1 FT percent.
2016-17 SEASON HIGHS: 29 points, Nov. 3 vs. Sacramento; 10 rebounds, Feb. 3 vs. Toronto; eight assists, twice, most recently Feb. 9 vs. Philadelphia; three steals, four times, most recently Jan. 8 at Los Angeles Lakers; one block, four times, most recently April 10 at Chicago; 44 minutes, Dec. 20 at Miami.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Fournier lived up to the lucrative contract extension that he signed with the Magic last July by posting career highs in scoring, rebounding, assists and minutes. He led the team in scoring 24 times and in assists 11 times. He reached double figures in points in 60 of the 66 games that he played in and he scored at least 20 points 30 times on the season. His 10-rebound night on Feb. 3 in a defeat of Toronto allowed Fournier to post the first double-double of his NBA career. Off the court, Fournier has evolved into more of a leader by frequently speaking up in huddles and one-on-one with teammates.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Fournier had a tremendously efficient season in 2015-16, ranking as one of just five qualified players to shoot at least 45 percent from the floor, 40 percent from 3-point range and 80 percent from the free throw line. This past season, however, Fournier’s accuracy and efficiency slipped a bit from all locations. It happened, largely, because of two contributing factors: He was often the top target of opposing defenses and he played much of the season with a sore right wrist that kept him from fully snapping his wrist on the follow through of his shot. Fournier will reportedly seek out a specialist to examine a troublesome wrist injury that has bothered him much of the past 1½ seasons. Another painful injury – a right heel contusion – also put a major damper on Fournier’s season. He missed five games from Dec. 23-Jan. 2, but returned too soon because of his haste to help his team. When the injury resurfaced, Fournier missed another eight games from Jan. 14-29.
FUTURE ROLE WITH MAGIC: Fournier is a franchise fixture and the team will likely build around him going forward because of all the things that he does well. Being 6-foot-7 – something that is often overlooked – Fournier can guard both shooting guards and small forwards. Also, his combination of shooting, driving and passing make him the Magic’s most dangerous all-around player. Even though Fournier averaged a career-best 3.0 assists a game, the Magic need him to be more of an elite playmaker next season. He averaged 3.4 assists per game before the break for the NBA All-Star Game, but just 2.1 assists over his final 21 games of the season. Making others around him better is the next step for Fournier, the Magic’s best player this past season.
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