Standing at 6’9 and listed at 220 pounds, Franz Wagner brings us to our second player profile. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Wagner go as high as seven to the Warriors nor would it be shocking to see him fall to their second lottery selection at 14, but I think Wagner being available at 14 is unlikely. I’m not as high on Wagner as a lot of people seem to be, but considering his versatility on both sides of the ball, it’s easy to see where the appeal is coming from.
Wagner’s numbers were fairly steady in his two seasons at the University of Michigan but he did see some slight improvement as a shooter in his sophomore season, where his 3-point percentage rose from 31.1% to 34.3%, and he also showed notable improvement as a playmaker where his assist numbers rose from 1.0 to 3.0 a game, and he went from having a negative assist-to-turnover ratio to roughly a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in his second year with the Wolverines.
Drafting Wagner at seven would be a bit of a reach, and for most teams I wouldn’t be a fan of taking him that high, but as a team who’s trying to win now, the Warriors can afford to pass on players with higher ceilings for a player they think can give them productive minutes right away.
Offensive Evaluation: Wagner fits the Warriors offensive system as well as just about anybody in this draft; he’s a good decision maker with the ball in his hands, a smart and timely cutter off the ball, and is an improving shooter from beyond the arc. Wagner isn’t going to be the guy you give the ball to and have him create a shot in an ISO situation, but the Warriors don’t need him to be that. Arguably the most important thing for players in the Warriors system is being able to play smart and make the right, and often times simple play, which Wagner excels at.
The Warriors first option is often to push the ball and create opportunities in transition where Wagner is more than comfortable grabbing boards and running the break himself or running the floor both as a finisher and as a trail man looking to step into 3’s.
In the half court the Warriors like to run a lot of DHO actions which I think is ideal for a player with Wagner’s skillset; Wagner should find himself getting a lot of open looks cutting to the rim and should thrive facilitating the offense as he’s a creative passer and is comfortable running the pick and roll as a ball handler. I see Wagner as a “Swiss Army Knife” type of offensive player; he’s not great at any one thing, but he’s versatile and good at a lot of different things.
He was used more as a ball handler in the pick and roll during his time at Michigan, but at the next level I think he could really thrive as a small ball 4 who can make plays as a roll man similar to the way Draymond Green does, and hopefully one day he can develop into a legitimate pick and pop threat as well.
Weaknesses: Wagner could certainly benefit from filling out his body a little bit and getting stronger. He often shies away from contact around the rim, and for a guy who isn’t going to be blowing by people he’s going to need to learn how to finish through contact against NBA level defenders. Wagner’s shot is still a developing part of his game, and I don’t expect him to have a lot of success early on in his career from beyond the 3-point line as I suspect he’ll take some time to adjust to the longer 3-point line in the NBA. He’s likely going to need to work on getting a quicker release on his shot in the NBA but for a guy who projects mostly as a transition shooter and spot up guy that may not be as important as getting stronger and simply getting up reps at the NBA 3-point line.
Overall, Wagner is a skilled and versatile offensive player but he projects as a complimentary player on that end of the floor. I believe his swing skill is his shooting. If he develops into a legitimate shooter he’ll really create problems for opposing defenses with his combination of size, passing, and shooting. His lack of burst and creativity as a ball handler will hold him back in one-on-one situations but again, he’s very comfortable as a pick and roll ball handler. If his shot doesn’t develop he’ll still be able to make an impact on offense as a cutter and as a distributor but it may be limited if that’s the case.
Defensive Evaluation: Wagner makes his biggest impact on this side of the floor. His anticipation as a team defender is excellent, which leads to him getting a lot of steals in the passing lanes, and for a guy his size he slides his feet extremely well. He’s often in the right place at the right time and seems to see plays happen before they actually do. Wagner didn’t participate at the NBA combine but he looks to have long arms and I think his length should cause issues for opposing players.
Wagner’s biggest weakness on defense is his lack of athleticism and although he does slide his feet really well I don’t see him being a lockdown one-on-one defender as I suspect most of the league’s premier wings and scorers will be able to get by him with their explosiveness or by changing speeds and getting him off balance. He did show some ability to recover and get back in front of players when he got beat in college but I don’t see that translating to the next level.
Even though I think he’ll have trouble with the athleticism and explosiveness of NBA players, he’s still going to be able to stay with guards and wings better than a lot of forwards and players his size, I just don’t think he’s a guy you throw on the other team’s best scorer for 48 minutes.
I do see him being a disruptor on the defensive end – like I said before, his anticipation is incredible and he knows when and where to be. He averaged 1 block per game and 1.3 steals per game in his sophomore season and projects as a really good weakside and help defender, where his anticipation and natural instincts really come into play. I think he can excel defending the pick and roll as he dealt with screens well in college and with his combination of size and good agility, he should be able to hold his own for the most part, although I think bigger and stronger players may have success playing bully ball against him early in his career.
Wagner is versatile on both ends of the court and I’m not sure his impact will always show up in the stat sheet, but he’s a guy you can count on to make winning plays, and that’s a skill in it’s own right.
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