Celtics Insider

Forsberg: Was Evan Fournier trade the right move for Celtics?

Celtics Insider

Some initial thoughts after the Boston Celtics acquired Evan Fournier from the Orlando Magic in advance of Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET NBA trade deadline: 

Fournier's role in Boston

Fournier immediately becomes Boston’s best bench scoring threat. The 28-year-old swingman is averaging 19.7 points in just 30.3 minutes per game this season while shooting 38.8 percent beyond the 3-point arc. He can operate as a secondary ball-handler and create for others, as he’s handing out a career-best 3.7 assists per game this season.

Fournier is enjoying a career season to date.

His usage rate will have to come down (and he might have to be more conservative with his shot selection) given the talent on Boston’s roster, but he’ll have freedom to fire away with most bench pairings. His ability to get to the free throw line could be a boost for a team that often seems allergic to visiting the charity stripe.

Attack mode

Fournier's FT attempts per game
4.7
Leading Celtics' FT attempts per game (Brown, Tatum tied)
4.6

The Magic had a team-best offensive rating of 110.5 in Fournier’s 787 minutes of floor time this season and that number plummeted to a team-worst mark of 100.8 without him.

When Kemba Walker is out on the second night of back-to-backs, Fournier can shuffle up with the first unit and provide offense while Marcus Smart runs point. We could also see Fournier in some crunch-time pairings to space the floor. 

Despite his size, Fournier is not a great rebounder and he’s an average defender at best, though he does give Boston some much-needed size when at the guard spot.

The flip side to his offensive jolt: The Magic gave up a team-worst 114.9 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, leaving him with a minus-4.4 net rating this season.

 

The NBA’s defensive tracking has opponents shooting 1.5 percent above their expected field goal percentage when defended by Fournier. While not great, that’s not an egregiously high number and he’s been decent at contesting shots at the 3-point line.

The concerns: Uncertain future; fewer minutes for kids

Here’s where this otherwise low-risk move — reports are the Celtics are sending out only two second-round picks and utilizing the Gordon Hayward traded player exception to absorb Fournier’s salary — gets a bit murky for us.

After weeks of posturing that the team would like to preserve the TPE to maximize it’s value this summer and expressing reluctance to deal for impending free agents, Ainge used the majority of the TPE to land a high-priced impending free agent.

The Celtics will have the ability to re-sign Fournier this summer, but with Jayson Tatum’s maximum-salary extension kicking in, every dollar spent is magnified by the luxury tax that the team will soon dive back into. Boston also could sign-and-trade Fournier to recoup value but that might be another trip down Trade Exception Avenue, which shouldn’t excite anyone.

What next?

Amount remaining on Hayward TPE after Fournier deal
$11M

In making a move for Fournier, the Celtics are acknowledging that options with the TPE might not be as robust as suggested this summer.

The trade does infuse much-needed talent onto the roster for a stretch run where they hope to find some semblance of their old selves and seem resigned to figure out the roster over the summer when tough decisions about the long-term futures of players like Fournier, Walker, and Smart come into focus.

The other question here is whether Fournier is enough of a needle-mover to stunt the potential development of younger players like Aaron Nesmith and Romeo Langford (assuming he can get and stay healthy).

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Are there enough minutes to nurture the development of those recent first-round picks, and should the Celtics have been more focused on adding at the 4/5 position when that appears to be a bigger area of need at the moment?

The other shoe to drop

Unless the Celtics send out a player to Orlando, the team will otherwise have to maneuver. They could pay a team to take on a small contract in order to both clear room for Fournier and ensure the team lands below the tax line. 

The verdict

Beggars can’t be choosers and Ainge didn’t sit on his hands at the deadline. Fournier wouldn’t have been near the top of our wish list and he’s not going to fix any of the main issues with this Celtics team with his skill set, but we’re not sure any available target would have.

 

If Walker can get his knee healthy and the Jays don’t run out of gas before the finish line, the Celtics have potential for a robust offense. They still need to figure out how to play with more consistency and more urgency moving forward.

Fourth-quarter defense remains a major concern and Fournier alone will not steer this team back onto a path of title contention.