Former Boston Celtics 2021 trade deadline splash Evan Fournier is coming off just about the worst imaginable season, lowlighted by his being quickly phased out of the Knicks’ rotation; not good for someone entering the 2023-24 season making $18.9 million, per Spotrac.
The Celtics should stay away from that contract by any means necessary, but that doesn’t necessarily rule out the possibility of a reunion. For one to come to fruition, it would have to be via free agency. But why would the Celtics bring in someone coming off a season in which he averaged 6.1 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists while shooting 33.7% from the field and 30.7% from three in 27 games, per Basketball-Reference?
For the record, this isn’t something the Boston Celtics have to do ASAP. They already have one of the league’s better bench scorers in Malcolm Brogdon, fresh off his Sixth Man of the Year award. While the Celtics ranked 20th in bench scoring – 32.4 points a game – during the 2022-23 season, per NBA.com, their bench also ranked second in net rating among benches, with a plus-2.1, behind only the Bulls, per NBA.com. One of Al Horford or Robert Williams III will also be added to their second unit this season, which is sure to be quite the boost.
So, no, the Celtics aren’t in dire need of someone like Fournier right now, but he is someone they should consider adding if and when he hits free agency in 2024. Fournier has a team option for the 2024-25 season for $19 million. Given that he was in the doghouse for the majority of the 2022-23 season and his no-holds-barred tirade directed at the Knicks earlier this summer, Fournier’s exit from the Big Apple seems like an absolute certainty.
What does that have to do with the Boston Celtics? Well, with the potential salary cap ramifications coming their way next year, they may have to cut some costs if their objective is to avoid the second luxury tax apron like they did this summer. With Jaylen Brown’s and Kristaps Porzingis’ extensions kicking in in 2024, the Celtics may try to get rid of any expendable salary that they can, and the go-to candidate for that criteria is Brogdon and the $22.5 million he’ll make during the 2024-25 season.
If the Celtics go that route and find a taker for him, that’s where someone like Fournier comes into play.
No one’s arguing against the notion that Fournier’s stock is at the lowest it’s ever been, knowing what he’s paid. One would say he had a Davis Bertan-like fall from grace, but that may even be an insult to Davis Bertans since he played more games (45) than Fournier did last season. The glass-half-full take on Fournier’s sub-optimal performance in New York is that it was the exception, not the norm.
The 30.7% 3-point shooting Fournier put up last season was his lowest percentage from distance since the 2018-19 season when he shot 34% with the Magic. Between 2019 and 2022, Fournier hasn’t shot worse than 38.8% from three. In fact, in his 11-year career, Fournier has shot worse than 37.6% from distance only twice before the 2022-23 season. His past experience as both a shot creator and a three-point marksman would make him fill a lot of the potential void Brogdon would leave if he were to be traded and at a bargain price at that.
Fournier’s first tenure with the Boston Celtics also has to be factored in. Evaluating Fournier’s first go-round with the Celtics is tricky. He got COVID-19 almost immediately upon being traded to Boston, joined a team whose season was already going down in flames, and only played in 21 games combined in the regular season and playoffs. It’s fair to say that he didn’t get a fair shot in Boston, but perhaps he would fare better with a fairly improved team with more time to develop chemistry with them.
Also, it’s not like his time in Boston was a complete disaster. Even if it was a small sample size, Fournier shot a blistering 46.3% from three on nearly six attempts a game, and that hardly dipped in the playoffs, shooting 43.3% on pretty much the exact same volume. Who’s to say he wouldn’t get another shooting glowup in a return to the Boston Celtics?
We all know Malcolm Brogdon certainly did.
Malcolm Brogdon’s efficiency shot up during first Boston Celtics season
Though he was recognized as an efficient shooter beforehand, Brogdon came off a season in which he shot 31.2% from three with the Pacers before joining the Celtics. That then shot up to a career-high 44.4% in his first season in Boston, per Basketball-Reference. Not to mention the 48.4% he shot from the field overall was his highest since his days with the Bucks. Playing around elite scorers elevated Brogdon’s game. Who’s to say that can’t happen with Fournier? Especially since he showed in limited action that playing around scorers makes him more efficient too?
The only way to know if it was the chicken or the egg between Fournier and the Knicks will be if and when the former gets another shot in the NBA. Pending any miraculous resurrection, no one is going to pay good money for Fournier following his turbulent tenure in New York. If and when he hits the market, he’d be an ideal low-risk/solid-reward guy to take a flier on, and, at only 30 years old, he could replace much of what Brogdon brings to the table.
The overlying issue, though, is that despite the drama that’s been going on, Fournier remains in New York for good reason. The Knicks are on the prowl for a superstar – Joel Embiid being the one tied the most to them – and having Fournier’s contract to match salaries could help them pull off a trade. As stupid as it sounds, they may very well keep Fournier for the 2024-25 season as a precaution should a superstar like Embiid want out between now and then. Fournier may very well be stuck for the next two years. No matter how it ends, Fournier’s rap sheet shows that, at a bargain price, he’s worth looking into.
However, for all we know, Brogdon’s not going anywhere, but even if he isn’t, who’s to say Fournier wouldn’t be a bad partner-in-crime in the Boston Celtics’ second unit? Fournier’s coming off the worst season he’s had in years, but his past results make him an ideal diamond in the rough. Strictly speaking, of course.