Franz Wagner Has a Chance to Be a Great Point Forward

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - A former NBA player Franz Wagner was compared to coming out of the University of Michigan, where he played for two seasons before declaring for the NBA Draft, was Hedo Turkoglu.

Aside from the fact that Wagner is 6-foot-10 like Turkoglu, the current Magic forward shares many of the same traits, specifically on the offensive end, as the former Magic forward.

The last few games we’ve seen Wagner, in stretches at least, play in a point forward role, one that made Turkoglu such a unique player in his prime. To be effective as a secondary or tertiary playmaker, a high basketball IQ is required, and Wagner, as was the case with Turkoglu, possesses that.

Also similar are his court vision, instincts, and timing. The Germany native has acknowledged that it’s been a while since he initiated an offensive set out of the pick-and-roll. But already, he’s showing signs of progress in this area. Even better is that he enjoys the challenge.

“Bunch of growth,” he said. “It’s something I got to get used to again. But, just making sure I have the right reads within the game when I run the pick-and-roll or run a play. Also, making decisions on the fly as a wing. You kind of just react to what the guard or the coach is running, and actually when I get the rebound sometimes I start the offense. Now I’m doing that a lot more often. That’s where I can get better.”

Back in the late 2000s/early 2010s, not many duos had better chemistry than Dwight Howard and Turkoglu, who connected in the pick-and-roll countless times. Although still getting used to one another, Wendell Carter Jr. and Wagner have thrived in the pick-and-roll together the last couple games.

Also, Wagner has made some heads-up plays when he’s driven down the lane, locating cutters or open shooters on the perimeter.

Reviewing some of these plays and some of the ones Turkoglu made around a decade ago, you can see the similarities just in how they execute with the ball in their hands.

Excited about Wagner’s growth and long-term potential are head coach Jamahl Mosley and teammates.

“He’s a very smart player,” veteran Robin Lopez said. “He’s extremely versatile. I like the mentality he’s got to top that all off. He’s relentless out there. He doesn’t get easily discouraged.”

Already dissected on OrlandoMagic.com is Wagner’s defensive skills. He’s excelled while matched up against some of the league’s elite. That’s what makes him even more of an intriguing young player. Not many guys are versatile on both ends of the floor. Those that are truly move the needle for their teams.

It’s important for Wagner to experience playing in different spots and situations throughout his rookie campaign. The more run he gets as a primary ball handler, the greater the impact he will make in the future when the stakes are higher.

Something else that stands out about the 20-year-old is his footwork. While quite slow off the dribble, his Eurostep is advanced and he’s able to make runners and floaters from awkward angles.

Through 21 games, Wagner is averaging 12.7 points on 42.5 shooting from the field and 36.1 percent from 3-point range to go along with 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

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