An Analysis of Franz Wagner Through His First Two NBA Games

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - One of the bright spots for the Orlando Magic through two games has been Franz Wagner, averaging 14.0 points on 57.1 percent shooting overall.

Just 20 years old, Wagner has demonstrated some unique skills in his 66 minutes of action so far.

The No. 1 thing that stands out about the 6-foot-10 forward is his movement without the ball. He has a knack for identifying wrinkles in the defense. Helping him score on those dashes inside after eluding defenders are his soft hands and touch around the basket.

The consensus on Wagner – and this was brought up even before the Magic made him the eighth overall pick in the 2021 draft – is that he’ll have a long and successful career if he becomes a reliable outside shooter. After going 0-of-2 from downtown in San Antonio, he knocked down four of his five attempts from 3-point distance in the home opener against New York.

It looks a bit funky because he doesn’t have blazing speed nor does he possess much of a shot-creation package, but Wagner can make shots off the dribble. He’ll toss up hook shots and floaters on the move, even if he doesn’t completely break down the man guarding him.

Pre-draft, one of Wagner’s comps was Hedo Turkoglu, who had his best NBA years with the Magic. One of the reasons he was linked to Turkoglu was because at the University of Michigan he showed he can be a dependable secondary playmaker. Wagner has exceptionally good passing instincts and vision at his size. It will be interesting to see how much “point forward” he plays throughout this season and beyond.

The other end of the floor is where he’s been even better, despite the team as a whole struggling defensively. Closing out on the perimeter, contesting shots, moving his feet laterally, resisting in the post and deflecting away passes are all things he does at a high level.

It’s still ambiguous what the endgame will look like for him. But what we know is that he’s versatile, he works hard, and he has the right attitude.

“I feel comfortable out there,” he said following Orlando’s loss to the Knicks at Amway Center. “There’s adjustments and stuff that I have to get better at. I think I’m getting more comfortable with every second out there. Getting to know my teammates a lot better when you actually play games and just getting to know the NBA game a lot more. Knowing what guy’s tendencies are, what a lot of plays (are), what they run. Just how defense works at this level. With every second out there, I feel a little bit better. But there’s going to be ups and downs throughout every game throughout the season, so I have to be ready for that.”

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