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Is Evan Fournier a good buy-low option for the Sixers?

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Just about two weeks from the NBA’s March 25 trade deadline, one thing is clear: Daryl Morey is not satisfied. Yesterday, Bleacher Report’s Jason Dumas reported that “Based on conversations with sources close to the team, they are not content with their current roster.” The thesis of the article was that Morey and co. are dead set on improving the Sixers’ roster in a meaningful way, so as to not only continue fending off the surging Brooklyn Nets, but to position the team as well as possible for a long postseason run.

The piece named players like Will Barton, George Hill, Delon Wright and PJ Tucker as options for whom the Sixers have shown interest. Philadelphia native and Villanova alum Kyle Lowry is thought of by many to be the best potential blend of talent and appropriate price — if he gets dangled at the deadline. As Lowry is a Raptors icon and the team has shown signs of life throughout the season, it’s far from a sure thing that he’ll hit the open market. A report yesterday stated that Lowry would not be heading elsewhere later this month.

Washington’s Bradley Beal and Chicago’s Zach LaVine are all but off the table, at this point.

But what about Evan Fournier?

The Frenchman is in the midst of the final year of his five-year, $85 million contract on an Orlando Magic team going nowhere in a hurry. The Magic are 13-23, losers of five straight heading into the All-Star break. Word on the NBA Twitter street is that the guard will be both available and only needing a small price in return at the deadline:

Fournier’s raw numbers this season are solid. He’s averaging 18.5 points per game on .450/.371/.790 percent shooting.

Offensively, Fournier is the type of player the Sixers ought to target. He provides a nice blend of outside shooting, foul-drawing and secondary creation.

Fournier’s 6.7 attempted 3s per game would lead the team by a good margin (the current leader is Danny Green at 5.9).

Fournier’s five free throw attempts per game would be third on the team, behind Joel Embiid’s 11.6 (!) and Ben Simmons’ 5.4.

Now let’s look at the advanced numbers.

This season, Fournier has graded out extremely well in transition, as he ranks in the 89th percentile. He’s been “excellent” as well off of hand-offs (96th percentile), as well as “very good” as the pick-and-roll ball-handler. Overall in the half court this season, Fournier graded out in the 53rd percentile.

The above numbers require a small grain of salt, however, as Fournier has only played in 21 games this season, due to a nagging groin injury. So let’s look at a larger sample size, Fournier’s advanced numbers from last season, when he played 66 games.

Last season, he graded out in the 80th percentile overall in the half court. He landed in the 77th percentile as the pick-and-roll ball-handler, 84th percentile on spot up shots, 77th percentile off of screens, and the 70th percentile off of hand-offs.

Overall, this season, Fournier has achieved a +2.5 estimated plus-minus (44th in the NBA).

His defensive EPM is a modest +.3 — which isn’t much to write home about, but given Fournier’s defensive reputation, it’s encouraging to see that he’s graded out as a plus defender this season.

Fournier’s 6-foot-7 height and wingspan help him compete on defense and avoid being a full-on minus.

A clear blight on Fournier’s resume is his lack of success in the playoffs. Through 14 lifetime postseason games, Fournier has converted only 26 percent of his 3s. The Sixers would be betting on his improved performance as he’d step into a tertiary role in Philly.

To me, Fournier is a clear step down from the most appealing potential options for the Sixers, mainly given the offensive firepower lying in wait for the Sixers in Brooklyn. But if Beal, LaVine and Lowry are unavailable at the deadline, Fournier provides an attractive alternative.

One of the main reasons a Fournier-to-Philly trade makes sense is the slim price the Magic will likely be able to demand in a deal. The Magic front office can’t afford to demand the world for Fournier — a player whose contract expires in a few months, with blemishes on his playoff resume and issues with durability this season. Unlike most of the Sixers deadline possibilities bandied about, Morey may be able to hold onto both current starting guards while acquiring Fournier. Here’s what a potential deal could look like:

Here, the Sixers include bench shooter Furkan Korkmaz with some of its existing flotsam contracts. Korkmaz’s role would diminish in value with Fournier coming in. The Sixers lose some size in the frontcourt as Mike Scott heads to Orlando, but Scott hasn’t consistently played well this year and should be easily replaced elsewhere in the bargain bin trade or buyout market.

The Magic would get a look at Korkmaz — whom they could re-sign this summer — and what’s likely to be a valuable early second-round pick. Four-for-one trades aren’t commonplace in the league, but maybe a third team could be brought into the mix to take on one or more of those players.

The Sixers could then slot Fournier into the starting 5 and allow Danny Green to come off the bench. This way, the team would have high-volume and effective shooters in both units. Green’s 3-point shooting and adequate wing defense would prove valuable off the bench.

The above move, for your information, would raise the Sixers’ championship odds from 5 percent to 8 percent, via FiveThirtyEight.

Hopefully, the Sixers can make a bigger improvement than adding Evan Fournier at this year’s trade deadline. But if a better opportunity doesn’t present itself, he could provide a valuable offensive boost for a low price, without sacrificing any of the team’s current starters.

All stats courtesy of Pro Basketball Reference, Dunks & Threes, and Synergy Sports.

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