Evan Fournier: Break Out or Hot Start?

Is Fournier's early-season production a sign of things to come? Or is it just a few good games?

Outside of a tough matchup against Otto Porter to start the season, as well as one last week against DeMarre Carroll and the Raptors, Evan Fournier has looked like one of the early favorites for the Most Improved Player award at times this season.

However, is this hot start sustainable for the Orlando Magic three-man, or will Fournier regress to the mean after a couple of big games?

Midrange and Position Change

While Fournier’s minutes are a big factor in his increased production, his jump in scoring can also be attributed to his midrange game.

Through just seven games this season, Fournier is shooting 72 percent between 3 and 10 feet. From the same distance, he only shot 18-of-72 for 25 percent last season, and throughout his career, he is only a 30 percent shooter from that range.

He has also improved his shooting percentage from 10 to 16 feet from 22 percent last season to 57 percent so far this year. Plus, even though he has only shot the ball five times between 10 and 16 feet this year, he is shooting 60 percent from that distance, and he is on pace to shoot more shots between 10 and 16 feet than he has in the previous three years of his career combined.

If this exponential increase in midrange efficiency and volume are here to stay, Fournier’s game has evolved into a whole new level in his fourth season. Before this year, Fournier was almost strictly a three-point shooter.

Over his last two seasons with Orlando and the Nuggets, more than 40 percent of Fournier’s shots were from beyond the arc. This season he is still getting enough volume to shoot 37 percent of his shots from three, but he has nearly doubled the amount of shots he is taking from 3 to 10 feet, and it is having a big impact on his shooting percentages.

Fournier is on pace to have a career year from the field, and he currently has a True Shooting Percentage of 56 percent, which would mark his best number in that category since his rookie season.

Just A Hot Start?

Fournier’s increased midrange efficiency is seemingly not a fluke, considering he is taking and making more shots inside the arc, but the problem with claiming that this year is a breakout is Fournier’s advanced stats are very similar to previous seasons.

Fournier has always had really good per-36 numbers ever since he came into the league, and if you compare his per-36 numbers this year to his first three, you will see modest gains in most categories. His increase in production this season could also be due to his permanent change to the small forward position under Scott Skiles.

However, Fournier’s PER is only 15.1, which would be just above the league average, his Assist Percentage is at the lowest of his career, and his Usage Rate is only slightly above his career averages. While he is turning the ball over less with a Turnover Percentage of 10.1 percent, his Free Throw Attempt Rate is also at the lowest of his career, which is concerning because mot players who increase their shots taken at or close to the rim should see an increase in their free throw attempts. The sample size is small, but it’s still something to watch with Fournier as he drives to the hoop more.

Fournier has definitely started taking more shots from inside the three-point line, and although the sample size is small through just seven games, his efficiency has been helped because of it.

However, to think that this level of production is sustainable throughout an entire season might be wishful thinking. We need another 20 games or more to label this a breakout season for the young French swingman. However, if you need a wing player who shoots three pointers and won’t kill your percentage stats on your fantasy squads, Fournier will likely prove to be a good add if he can still be found on your waiver wire.