Three weeks into the 2017-18 season, the Magic were sitting atop the Eastern Conference after winning eight of their first twelve games.
November must feel like a lifetime ago for players in Orlando’s locker room. The Magic have gone 16-52 since November 10th, sit one spot from the bottom of the conference standings, and are once again heading towards the lottery for a sixth straight year.
Injuries wreaked havoc on Orlando’s season, causing nearly everyone on the roster to miss time at one point or another due to varying reasons.
Now that the ‘17-’18 campaign is complete (or at least it’s done for some players who’ve been shut down), it’s time to look back on each player’s individual seasons. Let’s revisit who pulled their weight this year, and who needs to put this nightmarish season behind them as quickly as possible.
As a teacher who is used to assessing on a regular basis, this is right up my alley! Included in this report are season statistics along with some comments from yours truly that hopefully explain why I graded the guys the way that I did.
In the comments section below, please feel free to agree or disagree with any of my assessments, or simply just let me know if this is something that interests you. Credit for statistics goes to Basketball Reference and NBA.com as always. Enjoy!
Jonathon Simmons (69 Games Played, 50 Games Started)
Need any evidence that things went disastrously wrong for the Magic this year? How about the fact that Simmons, who was slated to be the team’s sixth man, ended up leading the team in total minutes played (despite the fact that he missed Orlando’s last 12 games).
Simmons played nearly as many minutes this season as he did his first two seasons in San Antonio. I took this information into account while assessing Simmons. Simmons was forced this season into a significantly larger role for the Magic than anyone expected. As a starter, Simmons’ production has been pretty pedestrian. I still like his contract; I think Simmons will be fine next season back in his expected role coming off the bench.
His numbers across the board were actually right on par, if not marginally better, than what he had posted for a couple seasons in San Antonio. Simmons scored over 20 points in a game thirteen times this season, including two games in which he scored over 30. But for the first time in his career, Simmons found himself on the floor without a group of other winning players, and that really affected some of his defensive metrics (Career Defensive Rating of 104 in San Antonio, DRtg of 113 this season; Career Defensive +/- of 0.6 in San Antonio, DPM of -1.4 this season).
The Magic were -7.2 per/100 possessions when Simmons was on the court this season, which is -5.6 per/100 worse than when Simmons was off the court (only Biyombo posted a worse on/off split this year).
Jonathon Simmons dropped 22PTS in the 3rd quarter against the Cavs pic.twitter.com/b82A9oaLK1— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) February 7, 2018
Best game of the season: February 6th vs. Cleveland (Orlando 116, Cleveland 98)
34 points (12-17 FG, 2-4 3PT, 8-9 FT), 7 rebounds
Evan Fournier (57 Games Played, 57 Games Started)
One of a player’s best abilities is availability, and for the second time in his four years with the Magic, Evan Fournier was unavailable to play in more than 20 games due to injury. Fournier’s absence during two different stretches this season really hurt the Magic, especially on the offensive end (the Magic are currently 4-18 without Fournier with two games remaining).
This past season was one of Fournier’s best offensive seasons of his career. He scored in double figures in 55 of the 57 games he played in, scoring 20 or more points 22 times on the season. Fournier set Orlando career high marks this season in scoring (19.9 points per/36), Player Efficiency Rating (PER: 15.6), and field goal percentage at the rim (67%). With a relatively high usage rate for the second straight year, Fournier also cut down significantly on his turnovers this season (career turnover percentage of 11.8%, 9.8% this year).
But now six years into his NBA career, Fournier has shown no progress towards becoming anything more than a one-way NBA player. His defensive contributions in Orlando have been near non-existent for four years. Because of his offensive skill-set, Fournier has to be on the floor for the Magic. Even elevating his defensive play to the point where he’s just an average defender would make all the difference for Fournier. Because right now, he’s basically an average fourth or fifth starter/sixth man playing a much larger role on a bad team.
The Magic were -3.8 per/100 possessions when Fournier was on the court this season, which is +1.6 per/100 better than when Fournier was off the court. In other words, even when factoring in his defensive shortcomings, the Magic are better off when Fournier is in the lineup (due to his offensive contributions).
Best game of the season: October 24th vs. Brooklyn (Orlando 125, Brooklyn 121)
28 points (9-15 FG, 2-5 3PT, 8-8 FT), 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals
Lets hear from you Magic fans. Where did I go wrong? Lookout for four additional player evaluation articles in this series coming over the next few weeks!