ORLANDO – The good news keeps rolling in for the Orlando Magic.
A night after they were awarded the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, one of their prized lottery selections from last year’s draft received recognition that he ranks among the top in his class.
Magic forward Franz Wagner, the eighth overall selection in 2021, was named to the Kia NBA’s All-Rookie First Team on Wednesday night, adding another accolade to an already impressive first-year resume. He received 84 out of a possible 100 First Team votes.
“Franz had a tremendous rookie season,” Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman said recently on FM 96.9 The Game’s Open Mike. “I feel that he learned what eighty-two games is about. He came within a whisker of playing all eighty-two, which would have been a hell of an accomplishment. But the fact that he did play as many as he did, I think is remarkable in today’s NBA for a rookie.”
Along with almost playing in every contest – his 79 games played were the most among any first-year player this season – Wagner scored the most points (1,197), grabbed the fifth most rebounds (356), dished out the sixth most assists (231), and tallied the fifth most steals (68) among all rookies. His 17 20-plus-point performances were the fourth most by a Magic rookie all-time – trailing only Shaquille O’Neal (60), Penny Hardaway (29), and Dennis Scott (24).
Wagner becomes the 10th player in franchise history to be named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team and the first since 2014-15. He joins Scott (1990-91), O’Neal (1992-93), Hardaway (1993-94), Matt Harpring (1998-99), Mike Miller (2000-01), Drew Gooden (2002-03), Dwight Howard (2004-05), Victor Oladipo (2013-14) and Elfrid Payton (2014-15).
“I’m super grateful that I got a lot of opportunity, a lot more than I expected coming in,” said Wagner during his season wrap-up interview. “It made my development a little quicker, I think, (being able) to try some stuff, make some mistakes, and learn on the fly too, and be in some situations that I wasn’t necessarily in a lot in college. I like those challenges, and I’m very thankful to the coaching staff for giving me that opportunity.”
While his opportunity may have been unique, so was his efficiency for a first-year player. Among the top-10 scoring rookies, he had the third-highest field goal percentage (46.8), second-best 3-point percentage (35.4) and top free throw percentage (86.3).
“Franz is very smart,” Magic guard Cole Anthony explained. “A lot of these rookies on these other teams, they’re getting the third, fourth, or fifth-best defender guarding them. Franz, night in and night out, is probably getting the best, if not the second best, defender on each squad’s team. That’s a huge difference, man.”
His best stint of the 2021-22 campaign came during the holiday season. During the month of December, Wagner averaged an NBA rookie-best 19.5 points per game while shooting 47.6 percent from the floor, 40.4 percent from 3-point range, and 88.9 percent from the free throw line.
That month was highlighted by a stellar 38-point explosion against the defending champions on Dec. 28. Afterwards, he drew praise from Milwaukee Bucks Head Coach Mike Budenholzer, who called the performance “one of the better games that I've seen a rookie have in our league.”
That 38-point showing, the second most by any rookie in a single game this season and the third most all time by an Orlando first-year player, also drew praise from a two-time MVP.
“I think he’s really good,” Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “We played him at home twice (in November). He was okay. He was good. But he came out the previous game we played (Dec. 28), played really well, got to his spots, knocked down threes, got to the free throw line. He came out (on Dec. 30), he played great. Got his teammates involved. Got his shots. I think sky’s the limit for him. For real. I wish him nothing but the best.”
Wagner is just part of a young core that has the organization – and its fans for that matter – so excited for the future. Jalen Suggs – Orlando’s selection at No. 5 overall in the same class – also showed flashes of becoming a high-end two-way player. Among rookies who played in at least 10 games, he finished ninth in points (11.8), third in assists (4.4), and third in steals (1.2) per contest. Like Wagner and Anthony, he was also named to the NBA All-Star Weekend’s Rising Stars Game.
“I’m so excited for what we’re growing and building with the Magic,” said Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley. “We have the most amazing fans that have been so supportive and patient. They’re just willing and wanting us to continue to build our success the right way. And that’s what we’re doing. (With the No. 1 overall pick in this draft, we’re going to add) another competitive, young, talented, high-basketball IQ player to our group that’s already close knit together. It’s going to be very exciting.”
Joining Wagner on the All-NBA First Team were Toronto’s Scottie Barnes, Detroit’s Cade Cunningham, Houston’s Jalen Green, and Cleveland’s Evan Mobley.