Wunderkind: German for “wonder child,” noun, a child prodigy or person who succeeds at a comparatively early age.
Whether it be when he won the Best Young Player Award during the 2018-19 Basketball Bundesliga season, was selected to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team during his lone year at Michigan or earned All-Rookie First Team honors this past year, Franz Wagner has always been ahead of the curve.
During the recent 2022 EuroBasket tournament, that has remained the case. Wagner’s dazzling performances have caught the attention of many.
NBA pundits are proclaiming the 21-year-old as the league’s next big star, and it is easy to see why: a newfound confidence as a scorer, both on-the-catch and off-the-dribble, paired with a visible improvement as both a ball-handler and a finisher.
Wagner is “putting it all together,” so to speak.
With Germany’s recent semi-final loss to Spain, now is a good time to reflect on the young star’s performance while simultaneously project what it could mean for his upcoming NBA season.
The rising sophomore finished the tournament averaging 16.1 points and 4.0 rebounds per game while shooting 18 of 39 from three (the FIBA court dimensions are slightly different than the NBA’s).
And perhaps the most impressive part about Wagner’s production is that it is coming alongside a ball-dominant guard in Dennis Schröder, who averaged 21.6 points and 7.3 assists per game for Germany (only Luka Doncic took more shots in this year’s tournament).
Wagner thriving in this role should be encouraging for the franchise given that this coming season, there will be nights where Wagner is not the focal point of the offense. But even when that is the case, he can still impact winning on a high level.
That said, it could be difficult to have Wagner as anything other than a primary or secondary offensive option this coming NBA season, presuming he follows the trajectory of some former international EuroBasket stars.
During the 2017 EuroBasket tournament, Schröder ranked second in scoring at 23.7 points per game. During the following NBA season, he averaged a career-high 19.4 points per game in 67 starts for the Atlanta Hawks.
In that same tournament, a 22-year-old Kristaps Porzingis was a hair behind Schröder in points per game at 23.6, only for him to receive his first NBA All-Star selection later that year as a member of the New York Knicks.
Fellow young players such as Finland’s Lauri Markkanen and Serbia’s Bogdan Bogdanovic both made All-Rookies teams in 2018. And following Slovenia’s 2017 championship run, Goran Dragic appeared in his first All-Star game as a member of the Miami Heat (his 17-year-old teammate Luka Doncic turned out to be pretty good as well).
And we cannot forget former Magic players Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucecic who followed their 2017 EuroBasket tournaments by ranking second and third in points per game for Orlando during the 2017-18 season.
Point being, recent history has shown us that success in this tournament translates to more success in a player’s respective NBA career. And if Wagner’s rookie campaign was not enough to convince you that one day he could blossom into an All-Star, his performance in this year’s EuroBasket tournament certainly should.
Wagner and Team Germany will face Poland in the bronze medal game this coming Sunday, September 18 at 11:15am EST.