Evan Fournier’s recent demotion seems like the icing on the cake to a disappointing tenure for the guard in the Big Apple.
Leon Rose inking the journeyman shooting guard Evan Fournier to a four-year, $78 million deal last August was met with a lot of pushback and was viewed by some as a desperate, late summer overpay that wouldn’t move the needle in terms of bringing the Knicks closer to their playoff ambitions.
Last season, the Frenchman was essentially what we all expected: hot and cold from three-point range, pathetic defensively, and overall a frustrating watch, taking touches away from younger players in whom the team had invested. Fournier did break the Knicks’ single-season record for three-point field goals made at 241, per Basketball Reference, and the Knicks did and still do need long-range shooting, which is why there was some justification to try to run it back with Fournier this season, especially given the financials of his contract.
This season, however, Fournier is averaging a lowly 6.9 points per game, his worst since his rookie year with the Nuggets, and is shooting 33.3% from behind the arc, the lowest of his career per ESPN Stats. The 30-year-old has been recently booted from Tom Thibodeau’s rotation, a decision one has to think that is partially due to Thibs being on the hot seat, but Fournier has been bad and has somehow fallen from opening night starter to collecting DNP’s in the span of 13 games.
I think it’s fair to say that Evan Fournier is the worst defender on the Knicks roster by far. By default, Cam Reddish, or anyone else who would benefit from Fournier’s benching is a more competent defender than he is. Defensive rating-wise, Fournier is 347th in the NBA, per NBA Stats, and while defensive rating may be a noisy individual stat, the eye-test backs up this stat. To be fair, a hand full of Knicks have struggled defensively this season, but Fournier has often stood out as the most egregious of the bunch.
Offensively, Fournier, as mentioned previously, is having a career-worst season and there is little justification for him playing over Reddish, Obi Toppin, IQ, and Quentin Grimes (who mysteriously has fallen out of the rotation), an observation even the veteran-friendly Thibodeau seems to agree with. Since Fournier’s benching, the Knicks have won two straight games, and although a small sample size, the offense seems to be clicking in a new way.
Reddish is the name to watch here. The 6’8 wing has strung together a nice stretch of games, finally establishing himself as a good player and fringe starter who offers upside, intensity, length, and defense that Fournier can’t.
cook ‘em Cam!! pic.twitter.com/KarCgIELYj
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) November 17, 2022
Trading Evan Fournier will not be an easy task, but at this point, Leon Rose and company should be making a move to rid the team of his contract. Whether it takes attaching a pick or understanding that they’re likely to not be getting back anything significant, it seems like getting Fournier out of the building would be addition by subtraction.
To be fair, Fournier has handled his benching with class and isn’t being a diva about the whole situation, but his time in the orange and blue has run its course.
Talked to Evan Fournier about being out of the rotation: "I always try to put myself in other people’s shoes. Thibs is trying to find a solution. I don’t think he made that decision because he don’t like me or anything like it’s a personal thing. He just wants to win, man."
— Steve Popper (@StevePopper) November 16, 2022
A viable trade partner who immediately comes to mind is the Los Angeles Lakers, a team starving for three-point shooting. Horrendous shooters are littered all over the Lakers roster and they are at the point of desperation after starting 3-10 and need to make a move for more firepower, while they still have LeBron James. Also, it would behoove them to recoup some draft capital and try to have some picks for the future, as LeBron’s career is deep on the back nine and Anthony Davis is unreliable physically and has proven to not be able to lead a team to the playoffs.
Enter the Knicks, who have a plethora of picks they can attach if they want to ship Fournier and even maybe Julius Randle to the Lakers. Many have mocked Russell Westbrook to the Knicks in a potential deal including Fournier, but that would just be an exchange of two awful contracts, and Westbrook on the Knicks might create more problems for a young Knicks team than Fournier currently causes, assuming he’s not bought out immediately.
Trade partners are unlikely to be knocking down the door for his services, but whether the Knicks move him at the trade deadline or next summer, it seems like sooner or later a trade ultimately gets done.