The writing had been on the wall over the last few days, but it became real Monday as Evan Fournier opted to sign with the New York Knicks two hours into NBA free agency.
The Boston Celtics traded for Fournier at the NBA trade deadline last season, sending a pair of second-round picks to the Orlando Magic. And while Boston’s trade package for Fournier wasn’t earth-shattering — Danny Ainge finally traded draft picks, after all — Fournier’s departure still is less than ideal given they used a major piece of the Gordon Hayward traded player exception to acquire him.
Fournier agreed to a four-year deal worth as much as $78 million with the Knicks, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. It clearly was out of Boston’s price range both in terms of average per year and years on the deal, and maybe for good reason. They were out-bid by a team which had far more financial flexibility. That’s not the issue.
The critique is that the organization botched the Hayward TPE.
It’s hard to fault recently-hired president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, of course, as it was Ainge who made the trade. Stevens actually lessened the blow to the Celtics by trading the Dallas Mavericks for Josh Richardson.
It was a move which probably best depicted Boston’s lack of confidence they could re-sign Fournier.
Richardson for Fournier, though, isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples move. Sure, 27-year-old Richardson, playing on a one-year player option, will give the Celtics another defensive guard in the backcourt.
Richardson is a six-year NBA veteran who played 59 games (56 starts) for the Mavericks last season. He played more than 30 minutes per game while averaging 12.1 points on 42.7 percent from the floor but just 33 percent from long range.
Fournier, in rather stark contrast, shot 46.3 percent from 3-point range in his 16 games (10 starts) with the Celtics. Fournier shot 41.3 percent in a larger 42-game sample size.
Fournier leaving Boston now gives the Celtics one less option from the perimeter, which is crucial given the fact Tatum and Brown benefit from spacing. Marcus Smart, another guard who likely will see plenty of time alongside Richardson, shot an identical 33 percent from long range last season.
NBA free agency is just getting started, of course, but with the Celtics’ limited amount of resources, they’ll have to find a wing — preferably one who fits the “shooting with size” mold — to help fill the void left by Fournier.