As you would expect for a national team coming off a third place finish at the World Cup and overflowing with NBA talent, France has gotten off to an excellent start at Eurobasket, with a 5-0 record through group play. The French have a solid core of veterans who have played at the international level for a decade - Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Nic Batum - complemented by a new generation of players headlined by Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier. Everyone knows about Gobert after a breakout season with the Utah Jazz but Fournier is more of an unknown commodity.

Still only 22, Fournier has paid his dues in his first three seasons with the Denver Nuggets and Orlando Magic. His playing time and offensive responsibility have increased every year but there have always been veterans and more highly-drafted players ahead of him, blocking him from fully breaking out on a national level. The question both he and the Magic have to figure out as they discuss a possible extension on his rookie deal is whether there is room for further growth on his career path and whether that development is possible on an Orlando team suddenly bursting with NBA talent at his position.







3P% (3PA)

2012-2013 (DEN)






40.7 (1.4)

2013-2014 (DEN)






37.6 (3.1)

2014-2015 (ORL)






37.8 (3.9)

At 6’7 205 with a 6’8 wingspan, Fournier has a great combination of size and athleticism for a plus shooter and he can comfortably slide between either wing position. Fournier hasn’t been able to translate those tools to high-level defensive play, with a career defensive rating of 111 points allowed per 100 possessions, but that’s understandable given how young he was when he came into the league. The Magic didn’t play a lot of defense last season, one of the primary reasons why Jacque Vaughn was fired, and Fournier’s playing time under new defensive-minded coach Scott Skiles will be determined in large part by how much he buys in on that side of the floor.

The optimism about his room for growth centers on the flashes of an all-around offensive game he has shown. He’s not just a shooter - he’s got a good first step, he’s really crafty with the ball in his hands and he has a good feel for the game. Despite serving primarily as a finisher early in his NBA career, he has always maintained a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, an indication that he knows how to make good decisions and read the floor. The question is what he could do with a higher usage rating - he’s never had a season with one higher than 20.4 - and more time with the ball in his hands.

The problem is that isn’t likely to happen in Orlando. A lot of Fournier’s playing time last season came as a result of an injury to Victor Oladipo. When everyone’s healthy on the perimeter, he is clearly behind Oladipo (a No. 2 pick), Elfrid Payton (No. 10), Aaron Gordon (No. 4) and Tobias Harris (who just signed a $64 million extension). That doesn’t even count Mario Hezonja, a 6’8 wing whom the Magic just took with at No. 5 in 2015. If Fournier’s not careful, he could be this season’s version of Mo Harkless, a promising young wing frozen out of the rotation in Orlando.

The difference between the two is that Fournier’s shooting is crucial to the Magic’s ability to stretch the floor, a problem given that none of the highly-drafted trio of Payton, Oladipo and Gordon came into the league as a 3-point shooter. Fournier is a volume three-point shooter who can shoot off the dribble and get the majority of his offense 25+ feet from the basket, an absolutely crucial skill in the modern NBA and something Orlando needs more of. So how can Skiles get all of these guys on the floor?

One possible solution is to copy the zeitgeist of the league and start playing 3-4 wing players at the same time. The Magic could have one of the fastest teams in the NBA, with Fournier, Harris and Hezonja opening up the floor for Payton, Oladipo and Gordon. If Skiles really wanted to think outside the box, he could go five out and take all of his traditional big men off the floor. Given Nik Vucevic’s struggles on defense, the typical downsides of going small would be at least somewhat minimized.

A huge part of his ability to play unconventional line-ups will depend on the development of Gordon, whose rookie season was short circuited by injury. At 6’9 220 with a 7’0 wingspan, Gordon has the length, athleticism and size to match up with four positions at the NBA level and possibly play some minutes as a small-ball 5. Gordon’s ability to switch on the pick-and-roll as the first layer of defense against the two-man game could suffocate offenses around the league.

If Skiles elects to play a more conservative style of defense based on walling off the paint with size, it’s unclear how many minutes will be available for Fournier in Orlando, which puts a huge crimp in negotiations between the two sides. How much money can the Magic invest in their 5th or 6th best perimeter player? Just as important, does Fournier want to commit the prime of his career to being a role player on a team with a ton of guys ahead of him on the pecking order? Or would he be better off rolling the dice in restricted free agency next summer, when the explosion in the salary cap could give teams the flexibility to gamble on a young player with upside?

Because he came into the NBA at 19, Fournier has spent the early part of his pro basketball career as an understudy, never getting a chance to showcase his game as a primary option at the NCAA level. He has had to bide his time, working on his game in relative anonymity and facing the reality that there are only so many shots, touches and minutes to go around in a 30-team league featuring the vast majority of the best players in the world.

If one of those teams is looking for value in free agency, they are much more likely to find it with a 23-year-old waiting for a chance than a 30-year old with a more proven name on the downside of his career. What you want to look for is a young guy with the physical tools and all-around game to potentially fill a bigger role and not hold his lack of production against him. If you go by the per-36 minute numbers, Fournier has always been an excellent shooter and scorer. All he needs now is an opportunity.