The NBA is a league of stars.
We know everything Stephen Curry and LeBron James do. We sound the alarm over every Anthony Davis block and dunk.
That’s all fair, but it makes it easy for role players to not get properly recognized. In the ebb and flow of the season, several role players go through hot streaks that go under the radar.
We’ll try to rectify this issue by awarding a Role Player of the Week Award. This is to highlight a superb week by a player who may not get a ton of coverage. The Week 2 winner is Evan Fournier.
Like Marcus Morris, the Role Player of the Week winner in Week 1, Fournier came into the season as a bit of an afterthought in the starting lineup. Tobias Harris was fresh off an extension, Nikola Vucevic was coming off a monster statistical year and Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton were the backcourt of the future. Even Mario Hezonja and Aaron Gordon have gotten much more hype than Fournier, as they were high picks with high ceilings the last two years.
But Fournier is an afterthought no more, as he’s currently leading the Magic in scoring for the season at 18.7 points per game. Over the past week, that number is even higher at 21.2 points per game. Considering Fournier set his career high last season with 12 points per game and the fact that he was supposed to be the fourth option on this offense, the scoring has been surprising.
Fournier’s game has been really simple during this hot stretch. He’s been making threes and taking straight-line drives to the basket.
Orlando has started the season moving the ball a lot, and defenses have often been scrambling against them. Despite the lack of shooting in the starting lineup, Payton and Oladipo have both drawn a lot of attention on initial drives, leaving the defense in a compromised position when Fournier gets the ball.
If defenders don’t close out on Fournier quickly enough, he’ll burn them with three-pointers. Always a good three-point shooter, Fournier was even better this week, knocking down 44.8 percent of his triples.
Where Fournier has improved during this stretch is taking the ball to the basket. Teams have started closing out more aggressively on him, and when they do, he’s shown some impressive ability off the bounce:
If Fournier’s defender is right up on him, he wastes no time in getting to the basket. And once there, Fournier has been as effective as anybody.
Fournier is 10th among all guards in field goals attempted per game within five feet over the last week, per NBA.com. And he shot a robust 64.5 percent on those attempts.
As Fournier has continued to be effective getting to the basket, Scott Skiles has trusted him with more and more pick-and-roll responsibility. This gives the Magic four players in the starting lineup who can handle the ball in the pick-and-roll, making the team very tough to defend.
After a start to the year that featured competitive losses to three good teams, Orlando has found the win column in three of its last four games, in no small part due to Fournier. It’s unlikely he’ll have this much production or responsibility all year, as the Magic will cede some duties to the rising stars on the team.
But Fournier’s shooting and secondary ball handling ability will be useful all season. Playing for a team with playoff aspirations, Fournier has already established how useful he can be.