2022 Orlando Magic Player Outlook: Moritz Wagner still trying to find his fit

Magic center Moritz Wagner flips a no-look pass while being surrounded by the Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez.Mjs 051121bucks Ec2956
Magic center Moritz Wagner flips a no-look pass while being surrounded by the Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez.Mjs 051121bucks Ec2956 /

Moritz Wagner does not want to be here because of his little brother.

Yes, Moritz is living with his younger brother, eight overall selection Franz Wagner, in an apartment. And they both have said they are trying to keep basketball separate from their personal lives. Moritz is not Franz’s brother on the basketball court. They are simply two players.

Moritz Wagner certainly carved a place with the Orlando Magic well before Franz Wagner arrived in the summer. Moritz Wagner was signed as a late-season addition as the team struggled to field a functioning roster with injuries. He signed a two-year deal this offseason based off some needed emergency play last year.

He produced too, scoring 11.0 points per game and shot a 49.5-percent effective field goal percentage in 26.0 minutes per game. He played in 11 games and started 10. That should signal how desperate the Magic were for bodies to put on the floor.

Wagner can step out and hit 3-pointers and has the versatility at least to play the 4 nominally. But it was also clear why Wagner has struggled to hang onto a roster spot.

Wagner is often miscast and misused. His skills are good enough to keep him statistically productive, but not good enough to put him anywhere on the floor consistently. He is a tweener in the modern sense — too small to defend centers, but not fast enough to guard the perimeter-based power forwards the league favors.

Moritz Wagner put up good numbers for the Orlando Magic last year, but he still struggles to find his perfect fit in the league.

Wagner has an understanding of his role and where to be on the court to be in a position to score. That is his biggest strength. And that is what gets him on the floor when the team is in a pinch.

But it is hard to say he has much of an impact in winning. Yes, he puts up numbers and is fairly efficient as a floor spacer. But he does not give much defensively.

With the extreme warning that it was the end of last season, the Magic had a 118.8 defensive rating with Wagner on the floor last season, the worst mark of any regular rotation player and only better than Robert Franks last season.

He was someone opposing players attacked and challenged at the rim. And often they were able to score on him. He gave up a field goal percentage that was 4.2 percentage points better than expected at the rim according to data from Basketball Index.

His other defensive numbers break out at about even. But it was difficult to judge much from the context of the minutes he played.

In reality, Moritz Wagner may become this year’s version of Dwayne Bacon. A player who can put up numbers when given the opportunity without disrupting too much of the team’s bigger picture. He is a veteran the coach can trust when he needs to fill in minutes.

That is probably Wagner played so much in the preseason. With both Chuma Okeke and Jonathan Isaac on the bench with injuries and the team experimenting with Wendell Carter at power forward, that moved Moritz Wagner further to the front.

Wagner posted 6.5 points per game and shot 36.4-percent in 15.1 minutes per game. As always, the numbers may not tell the whole story. But he was good for spreading the floor. But other teams were still able to beat him off the dribble and get to the basket.

Related Story. Preseason shows the Magic's rookies need time. light

It feels like Wagner’s goal when he is playing is to produce more than he gives up at times.

That is not a strong way to play or a sign a player is going to stick around for a while. That is not how a player establishes himself in the league.

After all, Bacon had a career season last year and was just the final cut of the New York Knicks.

Wagner has struggled to find his fit in the league. His skills translate offensively because he can shoot from the outside. But it does not seem good enough to make up for his other deficiencies. And certainly not enough to get a consistent rotation spot.

Like last year, when the team signed Bacon, the Magic signed a player they knew had a limited skill set and could be used for spot minutes as needed. It was never the play to have him lead the team in minutes or be the only player to appear in all 72 games. That was a product of the injuries the team faced.

Wagner is pretty much in the same boat.

The Magic know what his skills are. He is a near-7-footer who can shoot comfortably from the outside.

They also know his limitations. He is not going to be a great defender on the perimeter and he is at least average in the post. And he is not going to do much more than hit from the outside. He is probably not good enough of a shooter to carve a career out of that.

This is why Wagner has bounced around the fringes of the league during his three-year career (that included three teams last year).

Wagner can still have a solid game. He can still contribute to the team. Even if it is just as an extra body in practice.

Next. Orlando Magic invest in roster, maintain flexbility. dark

But Wagner is extremely limited. And he is probably not going to be in the rotation. If he is playing a lot of minutes, that would probably be a bad sign for the team and how the season is going. Just like it was with Bacon last year.