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Buzzworthy Picks 2021: Franz Wagner

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The German forward that would bring elite two-way potential to the Hornets frontcourt

Florida State v Michigan Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

It’s official, the Charlotte Hornets will be selecting 11th overall in the 2021 NBA Draft. Although it is disappointing that they didn’t move up into the top four, this is the range everyone was expecting.

Barring a trade, this ends all hopes of a LaMelo Ball-Evan Mobley duo. However, there are still some amazing players projected to be available at pick 11.

The next Buzzworthy Pick is Franz Wagner. He is a 6’9” wing projected to go anywhere from the seventh to the 15th pick in the draft. He is the brother of Moe Wagner, a center for the Orlando Magic.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer lists him as the eighth best prospect in the draft. He compares him to Lamar Odom, Danilo Gallinari, and Xavier Tillman.

Wagner was born in Germany and spent high school there before travelling to the United States for college. He played with Alba Berlin in Germany, but his playing time was scarce. He played in 22 games averaging 9.5 minutes.

After high school, Wagner accepted an offer from Michigan to play under Juwan Howard. He decided against playing professionally with Alba Berlin in favor of going to college.

College

Wagner spent two years at Michigan, where he started in all 55 games he played.. He averaged 12.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists his sophomore season. Wagner shot 47.7% from the field and 34.3% from deep.

Known in part for his defense, Wagner led the team in steals in his second year (1.3). He also finished second on the team in blocks (1.0).

The Wolverines finished 23-5 last year, earning a number one seed in the March Madness tournament. He helped lead Michigan to an Elite Eight appearance where they were eliminated by the UCLA Bruins.

Upside

Wagner is one of the most well-rounded prospects in the draft. At 6’9” he has the length to cover multiple positions, while also possessing a solid offensive skillset.

His defensive abilities are what stands out to most teams. He is tall enough to effectively guard players in the post, yet quick enough to stay with opponents on the perimeter. Wagner has the potential to become an extremely versatile defender in the NBA.

Off-ball defense is a huge part of his game as well. When guarding players in the corners, Wagner does a great job of helping stop other players from driving. He often finds himself in the position to poke the ball away or get a block from behind. O’Connor gushes over his overall defensive abilities in his scouring profile:

“Has a computer brain on defense. Reads plays instantly and disrupts actions by beating opponents to their spots. He will make a significant impact as an off-ball defender throughout his career.” - Kevin O’Connor, The Ringer

He is also great at closing out on shooters, regardless of if he’s defending on or off the ball. During his time with the German national team and at Michigan, this became one of his premiere traits.

The wing possesses a multifaceted offensive game as well. He managed to contribute in a ton of different ways on that end of the floor.

His playmaking is widely considered to be the most intriguing part of his offensive game, however. At the four, he has the potential to be a decent secondary playmaking option. O’Connor notes his “glue-guy” skillset, as well as the ability to playmake at the elbow.

Though he shot below 35% from three in his final year at Michigan, Wagner is a solid catch-and-shoot option as well. He needs to work on his release a bit, but the ability to make stand-still threes is certainly there.

Various scouting reports also praise his decisiveness on the drive. He can finish at the rim, but due to a lack of size must depend on his craftiness rather than overpowering defenders.

Downside

Defensively, there are little to no holes in Wagner’s game. The only thing he stands to improve upon is his overall agility and size. Putting in some work with NBA level trainers should help with that immediately.

Most of Wagner’s real weaknesses present themselves on the offensive end. One of the biggest issues has to do with his jump shot.

Wagner tends to bring the ball well below his chin during his shot, leading to a fairly slow release. This sort of mechanism could be easily blocked at the NBA level, and might hinder him in catch-and-shoot situations.

Though he is a decent shooter, he doesn’t have the ability to create his own shot. He can sometimes be a step slow, and outside of one to two dribble pull-ups, is somewhat limited with the ball in his hands.

While this may not be an issue to most teams, he doesn’t seem like the type to act as the focal point of an offense. He would function much better as a secondary or tertiary offensive option.

On top of that, Wagner doesn’t have the elite athleticism of some other prospects in his class. This leads to him having to find other ways to score whilst driving to the basket.

He also tends to settle for some awkward mid-range floaters with a low success rate. His craftiness is there, but he just has to work on the execution a bit.

Comparison

Kevin O’Connor’s comparison of Lamar Odom is perfect. Odom was a versatile defender who acted as a secondary playmaker on a lot of his teams. This could be exactly the role Wagner fits into in the NBA.

Wagner could be compared to various all-around forwards. The ones that stand out the most are Thaddeus Young, Paul Millsap, and Charlotte’s own Gordon Hayward.

Young is a solid comparison given his ability to contribute in a ton of different areas. He’s a great defender that can do it all on that end of the floor, while also contributing on offense from behind the arc.

The comparison to Millsap is similar to that of Young. Millsap was an elite defender at his peak, and if NBA trainers can unlock Wagner’s potential, he could find that amount of success at this level as well.

The glaring issue in comparing Wagner to those two players, however, is his lack of size. Both Young and Millsap are strong players who can use their strength on both ends. This is where the comparison to Hayward comes in.

Hayward came into the league as a scrawny player, but with NBA level training, was able to develop into a much stronger frame. He also possesses a very similar skillset to Wagner - underrated playmaking and all-around defense.

Summary

Wagner would fit in perfectly with the Charlotte Hornets. His defense-oriented style of play would help elevate them on that end of the floor, something they need desperately.

In addition, his floor spacing in combination with his size fits next to LaMelo Ball extremely well. He would slide in at the power forward and help shore up holes on both ends of the floor.

Similarly to Moses Moody, the one downside to drafting Wagner is a lack of secondary shot creation. However, with Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier, that is not an immediate need for the Hornets.

His defense should be by far the biggest draw for Hornets fans. If Wagner is on the board at pick 11, he could end up being a steal for Charlotte.