Orlando Magic’s Franz Wagner popping off and on the box score

Franz Wagner made a major statement as the Orlando Magic defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Franz Wagner made a major statement as the Orlando Magic defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports /

86. Final. 115. 38. 97

The Orlando Magic were still buzzing over what they had just witnessed.

Never mind erasing two double-digit deficits on the road on the final game of a three-game road trip. Never mind they had just pitched what amounts to a shutout in a 43-19 fourth quarter to secure a win running away, just their second of the year.

No matter what anyone else wanted to talk about — really no matter what anyone else has wanted to talk about all season — attention always seems to return to the Magic’s eighth overall selection, Franz Wagner.

Everyone said what he does would not show up in a box score all the time. Yet, through eight games, the box score is popping off.

And in Monday’s 115-97 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, Wagner did something that was just downright eye-popping.

Franz Wagner was advertised as something of a glue guy who would do the dirty work beyond the box score. In Monday’s win, Wagner seemed able and ready to do a whole lot more.

After Wagner confidently knocked down his fifth 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, the rookie had the ball in his hands at the top of the key with less than four minutes remaining in the game.

The Magic were looking to ice it and put the game out of reach — a really important step for such a young team.

Franz Wagner got a pick from center Wendell Carter and accelerated past his defender to elevate and slammed down a ferocious dunk over two Timberwolves, leaving the crowd, teammates and even himself, it seemed, in a state of shock.

It was the dunk heard around the world in many ways (a German reporter was indeed on the Magic’s postgame Zoom to ask Wagner a question). A dominant statement from a player flowing with confidence.

Cole Anthony said after the game the team already had it playing on a loop on their video board. It plastered over social media — both among teammates and nationally on the NBA’s channels. Wagner had made his opening statement, continuing an impressive start to his season.

The Magic’s rookie forward has everything going and is making a strong impression to start his career.

"“It helps a lot when you shoot it well, ” Wagner said after Monday’s game. “That’s when a lot of other things open up. It’s also coach giving me the opportunity and putting me in those positions. My teammates trusting me in those spots.”"

The rookie scored a career-high 28 points Monday, knocking down five of his nine 3-point attempts. He added four rebounds, two assists and two steals to complete a well-rounded scoreline.

For the season, he is averaging 15.6 points per game (second on the team) and shooting a 60.3-percent effective field goal percentage. He is making 46.3-percent of his 3-pointers, providing some needed spacing and confidence from the outside.

Wagner’s game has been much more than all of that too though. His consistency and his consistent impact have been needed on this young team.

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Wagner has scored at least 10 points in every game so far this season. He has hit at least one three in every game but one. Magic player shave raved about his IQ and his knowing when to cut and where to find himself on the floor. He has proven to be a perfect fit.

And he has proven to make everyone around him better. According to NBA.com’s lineup data, the Magic have a +1.1 net rating (108.0 offensive rating and 106.9 defensive rating) with Wagner on the floor. The team has a -24.3 net rating with him off the floor, a mark only bested by Cole Anthony early in the season.

It is easy to see by the numbers and by watching why so many want to play with him.

Monday’s game was taken to another level though. Wagner was willing to attack off the dribble, but without forcing things. He finished around the rim. And that dunk was only a product of his growing confidence.

His energy was at an all-time high at the end of the Timberwolves’ game.

Wagner is a different type of player with the motor and intangible skills that he possesses.

"“He has such a high basketball IQ, making the right reads, finding the open teammate, knowing when to turn the corner, knowing when to get downhill, knowing when to pass the ball,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after Mondays’ game. “His basketball IQ and his knowledge of the game, the things he sees, it makes him special.”"

Wagner came into the season as a terrific team payer, both defensively and offensively with a great feel for the game. But there were some question marks about his game. How much was his upside, and would he consistently knock down the open shot or be able to create offense off the dribble?

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He has answered those question marks early this season.

Wagner has been arguably the Magic’s most efficient player this season. The combo forward continues to make the right play on the wing. He will catch his man off guard and drive to the basket. And if you leave him open, he will take the jumper.

"“I just try to play the game, like every second the right way,” Wagner said. “Take the shots that are open for me. I’m not open, drive or kick it to someone else. ”"

Right now, the team just wants him to keep doing what he is doing. Cole Anthony joked in his postgame press conference that he wishes he was having the kind of rookie experience and season Franz Wagner is having so far.

All anyone has done is continue to encourage Wagner to shoot and play this way. It seems like it is a perfect fit.

Wagner entered the league with a seeming chip on his shoulder. He has worked hard to prove his place in the league early on.

Whether that means the Magic can expect more 28-point games in the future is another question.

But Wagner’s emergence is no doubt for real. He has scored in double-digits in all of the Magic’s games this season. He has knocked down three or more 3-pointers in four of Orlando’s eight games. And he has shot more than 10 field goals in all but two games this season.

The rookie is confident and not afraid to let it fly.

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And sometimes he is the one doing the flying. It is hard not to notice him anymore.