There are still over two months until the NBA Draft, but names seem to be flying up boards. Franz Wagner is one of these players that saw his stock skyrocket over the past year.
Wagner possesses a prototypical length that NBA teams love. Despite his exciting length, he also has a unique ball-handling ability that will translate nicely to the next level. The college standout also has one of the most unique styles of play. Having grown up in Germany (along with his brother, NBA’s Moritz Wagner) and playing amateur ball there, he has the European fundamentals mixed with a flashy American college style.
While he does have work to do, Wagner excites in a lot of different areas and looks to be a lottery pick in this year’s draft.
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Name: Franz Wagner
Weight: 220 lbs
Wagner is well polished around the rim. He possesses a multitude of moves to get towards the basket and often finishes strong. His go-to is definitely the euro-step and his length allows him to carve himself around defenders nicely. He has shown some inconsistency here, as he can occasionally miss some finishes that he should not. Wagner has finished through contact pretty well and shows good strength when going up. Overall, his finishing will not be an issue at the professional level.
Perimeter Shooting (7/10)
The perimeter shooting is not great, but he has shown significant growth in this area. He saw a three percent increase in his three-point shooting from his first year to his next in a larger sample size. He finished his sophomore year shooting at a 34.3 percent clip. Wagner has shown the ability to knock down the open shot but can get a little wayward when closely contested. When taking more difficult shots, his percentage drops severely. Step-backs are not really his move but he has tried them multiple times with little success. He’s not going to light up the box score with his shooting but he’s shown the ability to be a reliable shooter.
Ball Handling (8.5/10)
For a player of his size, Wagner has excellent handles. His ball-handling isn’t up to the point where he can be a reliable isolation player, but he does well enough. Wagner’s handling allows him to get listed as a guard here. He is smart and safe with the ball and knows how to set defenders up. He shows a good push off his back heels and he can accelerate into his finish nicely. A reliable handler in Juwan Howard’s sophisticated Wolverines offense, Wagner shows good promise in this area at the next level.
Once again, a player of Wagner’s size does not normally have a good passing ability. Wagner does, however. He only averaged 1.3 turnovers per game last season on top of three assists. While he’s mainly been relied upon as a scorer, Wagner has shown adequate vision and a nice ability to make adjustments when needed. His passing highlights come out of drive-and-kick scenarios where he’s made great body adjustments in the air to find the open man. This is another exciting facet of Wagner’s game.
On-Ball Defending (9/10)
This is where Wagner can really separate himself from other players on the floor. His defense is exceptional and his length plays a big role in this trait. Many thought Wagner was snubbed for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and there is certainly a very good argument for the case.
He averaged only 1.3 steals per game and one block per game last year, but he is not the type of defender that will stuff the stat sheet. His strength comes with his ability to keep guys in front of him. He rarely gets blown by in straight-up possessions and has shown the ability to guard almost any size on the floor. Wagner was repeatedly tasked with opposing teams’ best scoring forward and was often able to lock that player up. One of the premier ball-defenders in this class, Wagner has some superb ability here.
Wagner is an okay shot creator but this is also his biggest inconsistency. He is not aggressive at all at times and it sometimes comes in bigger moments, as well. Against weaker competition, he feasts on his defenders with a multitude of moves in and out of the post. He cuts through the gut expertly as well and has very good cuts as a whole. Wagner has also shown great ability in the pick and roll game off the wing. Overall, however, he will need to step up his aggression at the next level if he wants to elevate his scoring game.
Off-Ball Movement (8.75/10)
Wagner has really nice off-ball movement. He’s shown countless times that he is quick to react to the ball swinging around and makes a nice cut. He is often diving into the lane and has shown intelligence when his big-man was double-teamed. If defenders aren’t careful, Wagner can catch them off-guard with a quick and crafty cut.
Wagner is a solid athlete but he is not anything too special in this area. His athleticism shows best in shorter areas and half-court defending. On offense, he wins using his fundamentals as opposed to pure athleticism. Wagner has shown flashes of solid leaping ability, getting up for some nice blocks and dunks. To elaborate on Wagner’s skill in shorter areas, he has shown the aforementioned cutting ability and is quick to accelerate towards the basket. Wagner is a serviceable athlete, it’s not a particular strength but nowhere near a weakness, either.
Playing on the wing, the 19-year-old has shown a nice ability to rebound the basketball. He averaged over six rebounds per game last season, which is good for his position.
He can be seen going after loose rebounds and is handy on the boards all-around. A nice thing about Wagner is that he can also be used to go after the ball or get back in transition and will not get caught out of position either way.
Basketball IQ (4.75/5)
A super-smart player, Wagner ran Howard’s system to perfection at Michigan and you can really tell that he knows where to be on the floor at all times. There are never any real spacing errors with Wagner and he rarely takes bad shots. Teams will love Wagner’s IQ as it translates to the NBA and it should get him a nice jump early on.
Injury History (4/5)
The only issue Wagner had was a wrist injury at the beginning of his freshman year. It looked a little off at first but has since healed nicely.
Wagner is a player who really excites scouts because of his uniqueness. He’s a do-it-all guy that’s not going to drop 25 points a night but will give you a bit of everything. He definitely has some areas he needs to work on but his potential is through the roof. The length mixed with the guard skills and playmaking ability is really something special.
While the Berlin native will be more of a project prospect, by no means does that mean he shouldn’t get playing time right off the bat. He will be able to contribute early off the bench before carving out a role as a starter somewhere down the line. Wagner has certainly asserted himself as a lottery pick this year and it will be fun to see where he lands in the upcoming draft.
Player Grade (82.75/100): Late-Lottery Selection
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