The Denver Nuggets raised some eyebrows this week when announcing that they had signed their 2012 first round draft pick Evan Fournier of France to a multi-year deal. Does this mean Fournier will actually play in Denver and not be stored overseas for a year?
When the Nuggets announced that Frenchman Evan Fournier would be their selection at 20 in last month's NBA Draft, it was assumed among most Nuggets fans (including this one) that the pick was made specifically not to bring Fournier on-board the roster for the 2012-13 season. The thinking being: we already have too many players on the roster, so let's draft a foreigner who will stay overseas for a year while we figure out what to do with the rest of the squad.
Apparemment, ce n'est pas le cas!
(Apparently, this is not the case!)
Knowing the Nuggets organization as we do, it's hard to imagine that they would pay a player who won't actually play. Or at least be available to play. The Nuggets are too hamstrung as-is financially - thanks to their small market size, the NBA's lack of revenue sharing and the Nuggets ever-increasing cap figure. (Hence why Chris Andersen probably won't be amnestied even though he should be.)
Moreover, the Nuggets seem intent on having Fournier grow on their watch as opposed to someone else's. European squads - while they can be good proving grounds for young players needing ample playing time against adult competition, just ask Brandon Jennings - are notorious for skimping on the quality of facilities and conditioning commonplace among NBA franchises. Even the Los Angeles Clippers have a dedicated practice facility now.
Not that this doesn't come with some risk. As we've seen with the likes of Nikoloz Tskitishvili and Darko Milicic, relegating a teenage European import to the end of your bench and meaningless garbage time minutes - the only action presumably Fournier will see this upcoming season - can potentially damage a young foreigner's psyche for the remainder of his NBA career. The big difference between Fournier and those Stiffs, of course, is that Skita and Darko (5th and 2nd overall, respectively) had huge pressure heaped on them to perform whereas not much is expected of Fournier this season, or next for that matter.
So who is this Evan Fournier, the Nuggets' newest International Man of Mystery? Well, longtime Denver Stiffs reader stan_26 delivered a terrific breakdown on Fournier soon after the young Frenchman was drafted and I recommend reading that piece right away. The only thing missing from stan_26's column was noting that Fournier's parents were (are?) professional judo athletes, meaning this kid comes from some tough DNA. For an example of Fournier's supposed toughness, note Fournier's comments soon after being drafted into the NBA:
"It's never been a dream. Only a goal. I always knew I was going to make it."
Cocky? Tough? Strong-willed? Hyper-competitive? We knew a point guard out of Pittsburgh many years ago who was described the same way as he fought his way onto a tough North Carolina team and then into the ABA. His name is George Karl. And as many NBA folks have told me over the years, you always want a kid you have to dial down ... not a kid you have to "dial up." Fournier seems to fit that mold.
But we can opine and ponder all we want about Fournier's upside (and downside). His ultimate presence (or lack of) in the NBA will be determined on the court.
And by signing that multi-year deal this week, Fournier just catapulted himself into "must watch" territory in this weekend's Las Vegas Summer League.
Some interesting articles about Evan Fournier ...
NBA.com: Cool and Confident, Frenchman Fournier Strides Into NBA
Kevin Schreitrum writes that Fournier has always had his sights set on playing in the NBA.
Evan Fournier and the not necessarily surprising dearth of foreign prospects in the 2012 NBA draft - Grantland
Jordan Conn writes a terrific article on the sudden decline of foreign talent feeding into the NBA. This is a must read.
International Mystery - Mile High Sports
Chris Dolge asks if foreign players are handcuffing the Nuggets.
Evan Fournier: The Breakdown - Denver Stiffs
stan_26 breaks down Evan Fournier for his fellow Stiffs.
Denver Nuggets sign first-round draft pick Evan Fournier | THE OFFICIAL SITE OF THE DENVER NUGGETS
The official announcement here of Fournier being signed to a multi-year deal.