Player Profile: Evan Fournier, Denver Nuggets
After being drafted 2oth in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets, Evan Fournier had a satisfactory rookie season, especially considering he was only 20 for most of the NBA season and was the 11th youngest player in the league. Fournier averaged only 11 minutes per game but he was productive in those minutes, averaging 17 points on 49.3% shooting per 36 minutes. Heading into his sophomore campaign, he will likely see his name pop up on several breakout candidate player lists. This will highlight some of player strengths and areas for improvement as he matures as a player.
Three Point Shooting
Fournier was not afraid to let it fly from three point land last season, taking over one three point shot per game in the minutes he played, which came out to four and half attempts per 36 minutes. He was fairly accurate as well, shooting a shade over 40% on his long distance attempts.
Most of his attempts came from spot up situations, as he rarely shot off the dribble or coming off of screens. He liked to spot up the most in the right corner or the left wing and catch and shoot out of a Nuggets set. His sample size is not extremely large in most areas of the court but he has shown a small ability to spot up in more areas of the court as well.
Defenders will begin closing out on him harder as he gains minutes and begins showing higher up on the scouting reports as a shooter, so it is important he works on shooting with a defender in his face, as his wide open looks will begin to diminish.
Transition Run Outs
Zach Harper of CBS Sports wrote a nice piece in January on Fournier’s teammate, Corey Brewer, and his excellence in the art of the leak out. Fournier showed this skill as well and was able to pick up several easy baskets in transition because of his speed combined with his ability to recognize when to rim run. Many of these baskets came after an opposition made shot, as Fournier immediately sprinted to the opposite end of the court to beat the defense down the court when a shot was made.
According to 82games.com, 38% of Fournier’s shots came within the first ten seconds of the shot clock, many of which were these types of run outs, either after a made basket or in an other transition opportunity. As you can see from the shot chart above, he was a capable finisher at the rim, especially for a player of his size and strength. This allowed him to catch the pass ahead and finish against the recovering defense.
It isn’t always to see his run outs in the examples below because the broadcast often cuts away from the action after a made basket. However, you can see how he is able to beat the entire defense down the floor after made baskets, giving him easy finishes at the rim. The Nuggets were the second fastest team last season in terms of pace and it is expected they will be one of the fastest teams again. This will allow Fournier to contribute in this area and continue to pick up easy baskets.
Areas of Improvement
Using Pick and Roll Screens
Fournier was not often used as a ball handler for pick and roll plays and it appears unlikely that he will become a major user in this upcoming season. However, there will still be times when he will be put in this position and there is one major area he needs to work on to become a viable threat long term. If you look at Synergy’s raw data, you will see that Fournier was actually the most productive player in this scenario, scoring 1.1 points per possession as a PNR ball handler, best in the league.
Digging deeper though, we see that the sample size for Fournier is only 35 possessions, miniscule compared to most big time offensive players. We also see through the video that many of his shots at the rim are tough, closely contested shots that does not bode well for his long term success. There is one change he can make to become a bigger threat out of the pick and roll, which is to use the screen more effectively.
Below are two frames that show why this is an area of improvement for him. First, he needs to wait for the screener to come set, so an effective screen can be set. He often starts the action before the screener is ready to set his screen and the defender is easily able to go around this screen. Secondly, he needs to come off more tightly off the screener’s shoulder, instead of taking a wide turn like he did last season. This will actually run the defender into the screen, instead of providing the space for the defender to cut between the screen and Fournier.
Although Fournier finished some of these plays at the rim, he did so on tough shots or long jump shots. Being patient, waiting for the screen, and then taking a better angle off the screen will make him a better pick and roll player and more dangerous scorer, as he will get more open looks. He will probably not be a high usage pick and roll player again next season but this improvement will allow him to take advantage of the opportunities he is given.
With limited minutes last season, it’s hard to pinpoint one or two areas that Fournier clearly needs improvement on defensively but it is clear that he has room for growth in a bunch of areas defensively. Again, this will come with time, maturity and further awareness as he becomes more experienced. According to 82games.com, the Nuggets allowed 2 fewer points per 100 possessions when he was on the court versus when he was off the court. Looking at his individual opponent production, Fournier allowed 21.8 points/48 minutes guarding point guards and 26.7 points/48 minutes guarding shooting guards. Although these stats are not always the most reliable, it’s safe to say that Fournier is in between a capable defensive player and a liability.
The clips below highlight some of his biggest deficiencies and mistakes, ranging from getting beat off the dribble, to getting caught on ball screens, to getting lost in off ball switches and coverages. It’s hard for a first year player to master all the terminology, switches and rotations of a NBA defense, so it is no surprise Fournier struggled. He will need to show some improvement early next season if he wishes to stay in the Nuggets rotation.