I couldn’t be more thrilled about the Boston Celtics’ trade deadline acquisition.
The Celtics acquired Evan Fournier from the Orlando Magic for two second-round picks and Jeff Teague, a small price to pay for a wing who, over the last 18 months, has averaged 18.8 points and shot 39.5% from 3.
Boston needed shooting, to add a complimentary piece to a roster with plenty of star power but little fluidity. In Fournier, they find that: a really good shooting threat who is only 28-years-old, has playoff experience and who helps tighten a fairly thin wing rotation.
The great part about Fournier isn’t just that he shoots, it’s how he gets his shots.
From my vantage point, there are three ways to create jump shots: spotted up on the perimeter, moving off screens or off the dribble. If there’s one strength of the Celtics’ current star trio of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown or Kemba Walker, it’s in how they score off the bounce. Danny Ainge didn’t need to go out and acquire another guy who creates his own shot and needs the ball in his hands to score.
Instead, Ainge addressed the other two methods of getting a shot, adding a guy in Fournier who is used to being a high-usage threat off screens and just while stationary, waiting for someone else to create a shot for him.
The nice part about acquiring an off-ball scorer is that they don’t require running new plays or packages to get their shots. Just Fournier’s presence standing on the perimeter will help this offense. Over the last four seasons, he has shot 43% (186-432) on spot-up catch-and-shoot jumpers.
In Orlando, Steve Clifford’s system was mainly movement-dependent, with countless screen-the-screener looks and plays that darted Fournier off screens. He and Terrence Ross were the only shooters on the Magic, so the coaching staff had to be really creative with how to use their movement to create positive gravity and spacing.
Expect much of the same in Boston. While everyone shoots it a little for the C’s, they don’t have a consistent threat coming off screens. It’s an immediate area where Fournier can help, and where he’s been used a ton. This year alone, 17% of his offense is generated off screens.
What we’ve grown to see this year in Boston’s offense is that, if there isn’t an early ball screen for Kemba Walker in semi-transition, the C’s will be more deliberate to play through isolation-style wings Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Without a movement shooter next to them, the other guys on the floor have been standing around the 3-point line, waiting for a kickout. Their defenders then collapse on the lane to squeeze Tatum and Brown, creating a stagnant, inefficient look.
Adding a sniper at the deadline was vital for the Celtics’ offense to flow naturally. Now Stevens can run more sets and actions that bleed into the pick-and-rolls so that defenders aren’t set in the lane. We could see more usage like this to create movement:
When coming off screens, Fournier is highly intelligent. If defenders try to cheat him and go underneath screens, he feels the separation, pops back his cut and hides behind his teammate for an open jumper:
While his feet aren’t outstanding by any means, Fournier has the ability to play with some shiftiness when he has to put the ball on the floor. He’s very good with both hands near the rim, has a very dependable floater and is able to shake himself free with simple moves.
Similar to coming off screens, Fournier is a tremendous threat from handoffs. Those are much more simple within the flow of Boston’s offense. When the Celtics run a “Chicago” action — a down screen into a dribble handoff at pace — the defense can get hung up through traffic trying to trail a shooter like him. The C’s would make a killing off these actions for Gordon Hayward in year’s past:
Imagining Fournier as the new Hayward within the offense isn’t too far of a stretch. While Hayward was a more talented passer and isolation scorer, the threat of Fournier on the move will help open up the floor for the rest of the team.
He’s great at the Chicago action, especially when going to his right:
In handoffs, just as in screens, Fournier knows how and when to pop them back:
Some Celtics fans might be disappointed a bigger splash wasn’t made at the deadline. Offensively, Fournier is the panacea for the isolation blues. He won’t contribute to the problem but alleviate it. He competes on defense. He’s ready for playoff-caliber minutes.
For the cost Boston paid, it’s a really savvy move. Sure, there’s risk involved in not being able to retain Fournier, a free-agent-to-be, this summer. That said, most of the other moves from contenders at the deadline (including Denver’s snag of Aaron Gordon) came at a steep price. The Fournier price tag seems like a bargain in comparison and helps to preserve the Celtics’ desire to continue developing their young guns.