The Orlando Magic are a bleak 19-31 so far this year. In a way this terrible season is a blessing in disguise. The franchise finally put a stop to years of 6th to 8th seed mediocrity and hit the restart.
The early signs of the rebuild have been promising and none more promising than the immediate impact of Franz Wagner entering his second season down in Orlando.
To be honest I panned the Wagner pick post draft because I misunderstood him as a prospect. A finesse undersized stretch 4 who is a weak rebounder and defender. In the modern small ball era Wagner's weaknesses are offset by his offensive skills:
- Is a capable floor spacer
- Plays like a volume scorer
- Is a good passer for his position
In this offensive era, Wagner is a mismatch every night. Wagner will never be an all-NBA defender, but he can become an average defender and polish up to be a brilliant offensive player.
It's well accepted in this modern era that every player on the floor should at least be a decent shooter, this trend greatly killed what made stretch 4's special. I thought Wagner would just be another finesse big.
I was wrong. Wagner is showing early-on the signs of the perfect stretch 4. In today's NBA that isn't a unicorn anymore, yet it still is special. Wagner is a gifted player and the Magic should provide him with a role to grow into.
The weaknesses in Wagner's game is bad rebounding for his size (6'9) but otherwise you're getting everything from the modern stretch 4.
As a shooter, Wagner splits of 49/37/85 on good volume at all three levels as a 2nd year player on a bad team. This production hints of a future elite scorer when he fully adapts to the NBA.
The Magic have already begun running plays specifically to let Wagner find his scoring rhythm. That's a huge sign of confidence from the franchise to the rookie.
As a playmaker Wagner is posting a near 2-to-1 assist to TOV ratio which is great for a big. (They usually can't create at all.)
Wagner will not have a Jokic-like ceiling as a passer but he can still serve a role as a shot creating big for his guards when they are off-ball. He also draws attention on their drives by being a shooting threat (off-ball playmaking)
Wagner's stocks (steals + blocks) only add up to 1.2 (0.9 + 0.2 respectively) against 2.2 personal fouls per game. This (plus his rebounding) are major weaknesses in Wagner's game. It doesn't matter how smooth you are as a scorer, if you can't defend and mostly foul your opponent, your ceiling is capped at elite 6th Man of the Year contender
Wagner's ceiling is very undefined right now. He's obviously talented but has massive holes to his game. However, he is only in his second year, so how much he improves as a rebounder/defender will ultimately define his ceiling. (A weight gain would greatly help.)
Specifically, improvements by Wagner and the Magic as an organization will determine whether he becomes just another finesse big or the perfect 4 for the modern NBA.
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