Franz Wagner is taking the league by storm, entering his third season in the NBA. The 22-year-old was selected eighth overall in the 2021 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic. He has so far proven to be a valuable piece. The lengthy German out of Michigan is coming off his best season and should only continue to improve going into this year.
Top 25 NBA Players Under 25: No. 14 – Franz Wagner
In Wagner’s rookie year with Orlando, he averaged 15.2 points per game and was awarded NBA All-Rookie First Team. Last season, he increased his scoring output to 18.6 points per game despite playing similar minutes. In addition, he averaged a well-rounded 4.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.0 steals on 49/36/84 shooting splits. The six-foot-nine forward is already arguably the Magic’s best player.
Why Wagner Makes the List
From an offensive standpoint, he impacts the game in multiple aspects. With his frame, Wagner is capable of elevating over defenders to get his shot off, making him extremely difficult to contest. His combination of length, shooting, and ballhandling allows Wagner to score at all three levels. He’s someone who can contribute offensively in virtually all aspects. Wagner can score in pick-and-roll situations both as the screener and ball handler.
Additionally, he can come off screens in offensive sets off the ball to get open looks due to his elite shooting. One evolution of Wagner’s game will be his ability to create shots for himself consistently. He’s already great at it. However, if he wants to become an All-Star, Wagner must become a reliable go-to scorer. Wagner is already close to being a 20-point-per-game scorer who executes efficiently, so he comes in at No. 14.
Areas of Improvement
However, if he wants to reach the top ten of the ranks, Wagner must become a go-to bucket-getter who can be a primary scoring option on a playoff-caliber team. The question surrounding Wagner and Paolo Banchero will be whether or not they can continue putting up these stellar stats while the Magic continue to improve and make a legitimate playoff run. It’s relatively easy to put up empty stats on losing basketball teams. However, the next step for the Magic franchise pieces will be to continue progressing statistically while improving the team’s record.
The Last Word on Franz Wagner
Defensively, Wagner is one of the league’s most underrated players. Despite being only 22 and entering his third season, Wagner had a defensive RAPTOR rating of +1.8 last season (40th overall). His length, athleticism, and basketball IQ make Wagner a net positive defensively. He’s a versatile defender who can guard positions one through four when needed. Wagner has the innate ability to anticipate the offense and is excellent at putting himself in the correct position based on the situation.
In the future, Wagner’s defensive ability will be a massive plus for the Magic. Last year’s Miami Heat team that made an NBA Finals run as an eight seed was a great example of what a team is capable of when their stars, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, are locked in defensively.
It goes a long way when your franchise pieces set the tone on both ends of the court, and Wagner is an underrated player capable of providing something similar to the Magic. With Wagner – and Banchero – the Magic are in great hands for years to come.