Shut Up, You’re An NBA Hipster. Part 1: The Evan Fournier Bandwagon

For all the a-holes out there who want to prove how cool and obscure they are via their NBA fandom, this new series of NBA articles is for you.

Introduction to this Shut Up, You’re An NBA Hipster series thing

But you were there. You were there when Rudy Gobert was just some tall guy with epic wingspan playing for the Bakersfield Jam. You were there when Giannis Antetokounmpo played in the 2013 Greek League All Star Game. You were on the Dante Exum bandwagon before the 2013 Nike Hoops Summit. I heard you were the first person who thought Donatas Motiejunas would become a great stretch-4, back when he was playing in Lithuania. I heard you were the first person who said Donatas Motiejunas wouldn’t be a great stretch-4 but would instead become a great low-post player. I heard you know the name of every assistant coach on every team and what they’re all good at. I heard you do background research on every team’s medical staffs and you have your favorites. I heard you think liking Kawhi Leonard is kind of played out. I heard you may just watch the D-League this year because you want to watch something that’s real…

You were there.

Whether we consider ourselves NBA hipsters or not, we’re all interested in excavating the shadows of the NBA’s present-day superstars, stars and even good players for the next version of those players — i.e. we’re looking for obscure players to claim as our own. Sometimes we have the best interests of our favorite team in mind. Sometimes we’re looking for “sleepers” to boost our fantasy basketball team. Other times, we just want to be the first person to champion a specific player, so later on we can say stuff like, “We were totally into Kyle Korver before he went all mainstream with the Hawks. In fact, not to be shitty, we kind of prefer his earlier stuff when he was at Creighton.” And that makes us feel cool!

The latter is for whom this series of articles is intended. I’m not focusing on one team here and I don’t care about your fantasy basketball team. I’m also not here to write the millionth article about how Anthony Davis is poised to become the best player in the league or how Kawhi Leonard is a stealth MVP candidate or how this is a really big year for Kevin Durant. A lot of NBA writers far better than me are already covering this really well and, in some cases, covering this shit to death.

All I really want to do is help you become the first person to champion a specific player or few players or some new trend or piece of insight before it gets blown up by NBA Twitter, the basketball cognoscenti and the mainstream (so mainstream) sports media. Don’t be an asshole, everyone wants to be “FIRST!” every now and then.

With the NBA regular season set to kick off tonight, I’ll be rolling out a new Shut Up! You’re An NBA Hipster piece every day this week. Then, moving forward, I’ll maybe put out a new Shut Up! You’re An NBA Hipster piece once a week throughout the season, depending on you know how like played out the NBA gets. The NBA may get too mainstream for me and I might have to like give up and start covering stuff like low-level Heroes of the Storm matches being streamed on Twitch or, Jesus, something like the NFL.

Evan Fournier, SG, Orlando Magic

What will rooting for Evan Fournier feel like? Like being able to explain how Bitcoin works to your non-techie friends because you memorized a Bitcoin explainer article before meeting up with them.

Relevant 2014–2015 stats: 12.0 ppg, 44.0% FG, 37.8% 3P, 51.4% eFG

Right now, if you were to say you’re hot on this under-recognized sweet-shooting white European guy on the Orlando Magic, people — depending on how much basketblogging they have in their blood — will roll their eyes and tell you that no duh, everyone is ALREADY into Mario Hezonja.

And it’s true, if this were a side-by-side comparison of who has a brighter future, I’d be fully on board with choosing the fifth overall pick from Croatia in this year’s draft over the fourth-year Frenchman Fournier (fourth-year Frenchman Fournier…fourth-year Frenchman Fournier…fourth-year Frenchman Fournier). Hezonja is killer shooter from deep with good size, above average athleticism and the kind of highly entertaining IDGAFOS attitude that will win a game for his team one day and make his coach want to kill him the next (especially when his coach is Scott Skiles, who looks like he punches concrete for fun). But everybody already knows this.

Instead, the totally un-mainstream choice here is Fournier, who despite being a fourth-year player, is still only 22 (23 in a few days). If the Magic don’t extend him beyond his rookie contract, which ends after this season, you could be hearing about Fournier next summer getting a “WTF, three years and $19 million for Jodie Meeks” type of contract, only it’ll seem even more WTF-ier given the expected rise in the salary cap as well as Fournier being over four years younger than Meeks. Would $24 million over three years be too crazy for a guy with a career VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) of -0.1?

It may not be by the end of this season. In fact, depending on his playing time, it may not be enough. Fournier, aside from his young age and his playing for a new contract, has four obvious things going for him:

  1. He’s a 38% career three-point shooter.
  2. He has good size for a shooting guard (6'7", 205 lbs).
  3. He’s a savvy off-the-ball offensive player who can tire out and end up killing unfocused defensive teams with an effective array of backdoor cuts.
  4. His biggest weakness to date — his defense — is about to be addressed and hopefully improved by his new coach who happens to be a defensive wizard. Fournier may never have the quickness or strength to be a good defender but he’ll look competent and hopefully, actually become competent under Skiles tutelage or else he probably won’t play very much.

And this — playing time — stands as the central point in Fournier’s narrative. Right now, Fournier is firmly behind Victor Oladipo on the Magic’s depth chart and no longer seems to be the second option at backup small forward with Hezonja and starter Tobias Harris entrenched there. My guess is he’ll see playing time closer to his second season with the Denver Nuggets (around 20 mpg) than last season with Orlando (around 29 mpg). Which may be even better for someone—like Fournier’s agent or even you, in this case — with a vested interest in Fournier’s optics. Fournier has the skillset to put up intriguing per-36-mins numbers, which at this point, is kind of his M.O., enough to make him seem like one of those intriguing, perpetually bubbling with potential “if only he could get more playing time” guys (e.g. the Ed Davis All Stars).

Still, it’ll be interesting to see how willing Skiles is to go with both Hezonja and Fournier on the floor — a move to undoubtedly open up floor space for Orlando’s super athletic youngsters who can get to the rim at will but still struggle, at times mightily, with their jump shot, i.e. the aforementioned Oladipo and Harris as well as Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton (BTW: While I’m a pretty big Elfrid Payton fan, even I was shocked to see him land at #14 — one spot ahead of Blake Griffin! — on the FiveThirtyEight’s recently published “53 Best Franchise Players in the NBA” list. ELFRID PAYTON!!?!!)

If lineups featuring both Hezonja and Fournier can find a way to play even average defense, the spacing for the aforementioned athletes and a bit of a roomier paint for center Nikola Vucevic could have the legit “I swear I’m not fucking with you” makings of a top ten offense. With Skiles taking care of the defense, a team even approaching a top ten offense may make you not just want to be on the Evan Fournier bandwagon, but maybe on the Orlando Magic one too.

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