Nineteenth century French author Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr famously coined the phrase “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Upon embarking on one of the more critical off-seasons in recent franchise history, the Orlando Magic organization is once again finding itself in a familiar situation: change (and lots of it).
Orlando’s top executives, led by Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman and General Manager John Hammond, made franchise direction-altering moves this past March, trading All-Star center Nikola Vucevic (nine seasons with the Magic), starting forward Aaron Gordon (seven seasons with the Magic), and starting wing Evan Fournier (seven seasons with the Magic) prior to the league’s trade deadline. After appearing in the playoffs for two consecutive seasons from 2019-2020, Orlando’s front office decided to change the organization’s course - at least partly due to the significant knee injuries suffered by Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac (which caused the Magic to fall considerably in the Eastern Conference hierarchy).
If that wasn’t enough change (or maybe because it was too much), the Orlando Magic organization will also be searching this offseason for their sixth head coach in the last eight years. On June 5th, an announcement was made that the team and former head coach Steve Clifford had “mutually agreed to part ways”. Clifford, who was an assistant in Orlando under Stan Van Gundy from 2007-2012, compiled a 96-131 record leading the Magic over the last three seasons. It is widely believed that the Orlando organization’s new blueprint- with so many young players on the roster - doesn’t align with a veteran coach such as Clifford’s timeline.
So here we are, with a turned-over roster full of 20-somethings, and a new lead coach yet to be hired. But with so much change, why do things in Orlando still feel the same?
The draft. Once again, the Magic organization is embarking on a critically important draft - and they have to get things right. The mainstays from recent Orlando past are gone, the team is in full rebuild mode, and much of what the franchise has done over the last year hinges on hitting a homerun during this draft process.
So I’m back for my fourth consecutive offseason, putting together a series of scouting reports on players the Magic will likely be targeting, either with their first round pick or Chicago’s pick (which Orlando acquired in the Vucevic deal). Chicago’s first round pick this year will be conveyed to Orlando as long as it doesn’t land in the top-4.
Some important dates in this process to keep in mind between now and the end of the summer are: June 21st-27th (the NBA Draft Combine), June 22nd (the NBA Draft Lottery), and July 29th (the NBA Draft).
In this series, I have compiled scouting reports that include film observations, loose player comparisons, talking points, Magic-specific potential fits/needs, and more. Second in this series is a versatile prospect who already shares ties with someone that has recently played in Orlando (his older brother) - Michigan forward Franz Wagner.
12.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.3 steals (30.4 minutes per game)
58.7% TS%, A/TO ratio: 2.33
Film study: Eye in the sky
-As a wing player, uses his size/length to create advantages at the collegiate-level
-Comfortable making plays off the dribble: initiating pick-and-roll offense, using a pump-fake into a midrange jump-shot, dribble-drive and dish to the open man, etc.
-Nice touch with his range shot (tons of arc), a little slow getting into his jumper; uses his lower-half really well to get squared/balanced
-Long-strider: covers so much ground driving to the basket, cutting off the ball, and/or in transition
-Looks very long on film; plays with guard skills, a kid that has just kept growing
-Elite team defender, has to be in the conversation for highest defensive awareness/defensive IQ in this class
-Disruptive getting into passing lanes, creates deflections
-Glue guy that can impact the game in so many ways: on the boards, moving the basketball, shooting, on and off the ball defensively
-Had no problem getting to the rim/into the paint from the perimeter (off the dribble) at Michigan, does he have enough athleticism and speed to create those same advantages in the NBA?
His game resembles...
Nicolas Batum - Batum (especially in Portland) is the archetype for the role I think Wagner can fill in the NBA. Does a little bit of everything - provides some outside shooting, can move the ball, takes care of the basketball, smart plus-defender, etc.
Otto Porter Jr. - Very similar shooting and rebounding numbers for Porter (at Georgetown) and Wagner. Similar physical profiles as well. Both prospects are solid & versatile defenders (on the ball and team defenders).
Kyle Anderson - Again, similar skill-sets when you think about the basketball IQ, playmaking ability, defensive awareness, outside shooting. While I do have questions about Wagner’s athleticism (compared to other NBA players), it should be noted that he’s no “Slo Mo” like Anderson.
Best games/films of the season
February 18th vs. Rutgers: 20 points (6-9 FGA’s, 3-4 3PTA’s), 7 rebounds, 3 assists
February 25th vs. Iowa: 21 points (9-12 FGA’s, 2-3 3PTA’s), 4 assists
February 27th vs. Indiana: 21 points (6-9 FGA’s), 6 rebounds, 3 steals
Video Credit: Tremendous Upside
Video Credit: The Scouting Rapport
Resume & By the numbers
- Represented Germany at both the FIBIA U16 European Championship (2017) and the FIBA U18 European Championship (2019)
- At 17 years of age, Wagner played for Alba Berlin in the BBL (Basketball Bundesliga, highest level of basketball in Germany)
- Was awarded the BBL “Best German Young Player” award in 2019
- Named to the Big Ten All-Freshmen Team (2020)
- Led the Big Ten in Defensive Box Plus/Minus in 2020-21 (ranked third overall in NCAA), 3rd in the Big Ten in Box Plus/Minus (ranked fifth overall in NCAA)
- Ranked 2nd in the Big Ten in Defensive Rating last season, 4th in the Big Ten in Offensive Rating
1) Growth (physically & skill-wise)
Every time I’ve watched Wagner play over the last couple of years, it seems to me that he’s grown another inch since the previous time I checked-in. This is a young prospect that was listed at 6-5 at the FIBA U16 European Championships in 2017, and I believe he he measured at 6-7 upon entering the University of Michigan. Well, he’s currently listed by multiple outlets at 6-9, but I wouldn’t be shocked if teams have him closer to 6-10 when he goes through the draft combine/individual workouts. And assuming his +3 wingspan that was measured in 2017 still holds true (listed at 6-5 with a 6-8 wingspan in 2017), that would mean Wagner’s wingspan would be pushing 7-0-plus. Still only 19 years old, the Berlin native has considerable positional size for a wing prospect (with a large/sturdy frame and wide shoulders that will assumingly add bulk over his career).
Wagner’s body isn’t the only thing that has gone through sizeable growth through his late-teenage years. After considering entering the NBA Draft last year, Wagner was one of the most improved players in the country in 2020-21. The sophomore forward improved in Year 2 playing for head coach Juwan Howard in the following areas:
-FG% (from 45.2 to 47.4 percent), 3PT% (from 31.1 to 34.4 percent), and TS% (from 56.6 to 58.7 percent)
-Offensive Rating (from 107 to 121), Defensive Rating (from 96 to 92), and Player Efficiency Rating (from 16.8 to 22.0)
-Assist Percentage (from 5.9% to 17.4%), WS/40 (from .135 to .210), and Box Plus/Minus (from 6.8 to 11.9)
It’s important to remember that Wagner is relatively young for his class. So even though he has 55 games of Big Ten experience under his belt, he’s still at a similar age as many of the freshmen in this draft class.
How much will he continue to grow (pun intended...)?
2) Swiss Army Knife
If a team is looking for a prospect in this class that is going to average 20 points a night, well then Wagner is probably not their guy. In fact, there’s really not one specific area in Wagner’s game where you can definitively say, “that’s where he (Wagner) is elite - compared to other prospects in this class.”
For me, Wagner’s appeal comes from the perspective that, while he may not have one single area in his game that “jumps off the page” - he also won’t hurt you. I think he can provide some value to a team in a multitude of areas.
Offensively, he makes sound decisions with the ball in his hands. A 17.4 percent assist percentage for a 6-9 wing is nothing to overlook (2.37 A/TO ratio). According to his Synergy Sports profile, Wagner ranked in the 73rd percentile (“very good”) at the collegiate level as a pick-and-roll initiator, producing 62 points in 73 possessions (0.85 PPP). Shooting off the dribble, Wagner ranked in the 82nd percentile (“very good”) in college - producing 0.97 points per possession.
Off the ball, Wagner is able to use his plus-instincts to hurt teams with timely cuts (and finishes - 68% FG% at the rim last season). According to his Synergy profile, Wagner produced 26 points off 17 cuts to the basket last season (1.5 points per possession, “excellent”). Utilizing his long strides and positional size, Wagner can also hurt teams in transition. He still has room to grow in open “catch and shoot” situations (68 points over 67 possessions, 54th percentile, 106 points over 111 possessions spotting-up), but I wouldn’t necessarily say he would hurt a team in those spots either.
And defensively, you’re getting a prospect in Wagner who provides value at the point of attack (deflecting passes, jumping passing lanes, blocking shots), as well as off the ball (processes/reacts quickly, greater helper off his man, solid rebounder, etc.).
While not a prolific volume scorer, Wagner can get a team a bucket when needed. He’s going to move the ball, take care of the ball, and get out in transition. As a two-way player with size, Wagner can help a team on the boards, on the defensive end, and possibly even initiating offense as a pick-and-roll ball-handler.
Wagner is from Germany, but as far as basketball labels go, he definitely fits the prototype of a “Swiss army knife” type of prospect.
Making a case for the Magic to draft Franz Wagner in the ‘21 draft
|Does Wagner fit the Weltman/Hammond archetype?||Yes|
|Would taking Wagner in the lottery be considered a BPA/value selection?||No (Magic pick)
Yes (if the Chicago pick falls towards the end of the lottery)
|Would Wagner provide the Magic with depth in a needed area?||Yes|
I kind of feel like this final section of the scouting report almost writes itself. I don’t really need to make too convincing of a case that Wagner could potentially fit with Orlando. That’s kind of Wagner’s thing; he’s a glue-guy that theoretically fits on any team’s roster. Relatively low usage required, he’s a prospect that’s going to keep the ball moving. He’s going to take care of the basketball, keep the defense honest if they help off of him, he can facilitate offense. And he’s going to help the team on the defensive end, both guarding his man as well as making the correct help-side reads.
In reality, Wagner also fits the kind of player Weltman and Hammond love to target (and very much so). He’s long and possesses both plus-positional size and versatility. Orlando’s current management group also values their board, and has approached prior drafts with the mindset of selecting the “best player available” - regardless of position or perceived fit.
Additionally, Wagner does play a position where the Magic could use additional depth. Isaac and Chuma Okeke can swing back and forth between the two forward spots, but both players are probably better suited to serve the majority of their minutes at the power forward position. There’s no guarantee that Dwayne Bacon, James Ennis, or Otto Porter Jr. will be back for the Magic next season either (Bacon’s contract next season involves a team option, Ennis and Porter Jr. are both unrestricted free agents).
Like I mentioned previously in this series of scouting reports, it’s likely that the Magic will have two picks in this year’s draft within the top ten selections (their pick and Chicago’s pick, which was acquired in the Vucevic trade and is top four protected). While Wagner shouldn’t/wouldn’t be in consideration for Orlando with their own pick, he is very much in play with the pick they acquired from the Bulls.
The Orlando Magic organization got an eleven game look at Franz’s older brother, Moritz Wagner, at the end of last season (Wagner is not under contract with the Magic for next season). Perhaps Orlando will opt to go with the younger Wagner and select the Michigan product in next month’s NBA Draft.
Aaron Goldstone has been writing for Orlando Pinstriped Post since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @AaronGoldstone.
Also, check out Aaron’s first scouting report in this series of Scottie Barnes.