Orlando Magic’s Franz Wagner will get his chance to shine at Eurobasket

Franz Wagner will be growing in his offseason by playing for the German National Team in Eurobasket. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Franz Wagner will be growing in his offseason by playing for the German National Team in Eurobasket. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Former Orlando Magic coach (and current Charlotte Hornets coach) Steve Clifford was excited when he was asked about Evan Fournier’s trip to Eurobasket three years ago. One of his mentors and friends, Tom Thibodeau, extolled the virtues of players competing for their national teams and the experience and high-level pressure they received from those experiences.

Indeed, there might be some fatigue that occurs. But it is hard to argue fully against the benefits of playing in these international competitions. They bring out a different side of these players and, especially for young players, it puts them in winning situations and high-pressure games quickly.

Those players, Clifford at least surmised, arrived to camp already focused and ready to play at a high level. It was something that helped a lot of players take the leap.

Orlando has had a lot of players play for their national teams in recent years. Eurobasket has become a bit of a Magic gathering in the late offseason.

It will be once again.

Magic sophomore forward Franz Wagner and his brother Moe Wagner were announced as members of the German National Team ahead of the FIBA Eurobasket tournament in their home country this September. They will join NBA stalwarts Dennis Schroder and Daniel Theis for the tournament which tips off September 1 with Germany taking on France in Cologne, Germany.

Orlando Magic forwards Franz Wagner and Moe Wagner will suit up for Germany in Eurobasket in September, giving the younger Wagner a major growth opportunity to play some high-level games.

For Germany, getting both Wagner brothers to play is a big step for them. Germany has not medaled at Eurobasket since 2005. Schroder was a big part of Germany’s effort in the 2019 FIBA World Cup, where he averaged 19.6 points and 9.4 assists per game.

He has been a big part of Germany’s efforts to qualify for this upcoming World Cup, averaging 26.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game in two games. Germany will have a pair of World Cup qualifying games against Sweden (Aug. 25) and Slovenia (Aug. 28) that Franz and Moe Wagner are likely to play.

Yes, that means Franz Wagner and Germany will get a warmup game against likely Luka Doncic and Slovenia before Eurobasket begins as the teams begin the second round of qualifying. It has the potential to be a very enticing and exciting qualifying window.

Moe Wagner also has a solid history with the German National Team. He was the key player for Germany to qualify for the Olympics in 2021. He averaged 14.3 points per game in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament that got Germany into the Olympics. He posted 11.0 points per game for Germany in Tokyo.

That is just the appetizer of course. Both Moe Wagner and Dennis Schroder have established themselves on the German national team, helping get the team back into competitiveness for these international competitions.

The real main course is Franz Wagner’s arrival to the national team. He represents the future of the German basketball program.

Wagner will be making his debut on the senior national team this summer. The last time he played international basketball was on the U18 team in 2019 at the FIBA European Championship, where he averaged 13.0 points per game and 4.8 rebounds per game. Germany failed to advance out of group play

It was a long time ago for Wagner and his development, even if it was just three years ago. His year at Michigan feels like a long time ago for Wagner.

Wagner had the breakout season for the Magic as a rookie, averaging 15.2 points per game with a 51.7-percent effective field goal percentage. If anything, Magic fans were hungry for him to do more. He just filled in all the gaps for the Magic.

Orlando kept his role pretty supportive throughout last year and he found a ton of success. The hope for the Magic is that they can bring out more of his playmaking and scoring ability this season. Playing alongside another big forward in Paolo Banchero may ease some of that scoring burden and give him more space as teams figure out what to do with two 6-foot-10 playmakers.

The real mystery remains just how much better Wagner got.

Like most of the top rookies from last season’s draft class, the Magic opted to sit Wagner out of Summer League. Perhaps it was with the understanding he was set to play in this tournament and they did not want to overtax him. Perhaps it was strategic to give Banchero as much runway as possible and focus on experimenting with him during Summer League rather than focus on Wagner.

A lot of NBA scouts believe a player’s biggest growth comes between a player’s rookie and second season. So there is quite a bit of anticipation for Wagner and to see him play. Nobody knows in what ways he will take a leap.

Adding in the potential of playing in these high-impact games with Eurobasket has the chance to really supercharge his development.

To be sure though, this will still be Schroder’s team. He has been the driving force for the team for the last few years and will likely remain the team’s leading scorer as its lead ball handler when Eurobasket tips off. Similarly, there are veteran players on the team who will soak up possessions.

Magic fans hoping to see Wagner get “alpha” possessions for Germany are likely to be disappointed. Then again, Wagner has always found a way to make an impact even if the ball is not specifically designed to go to him.

Germany absolutely could use a player like Wagner to help boost their chances of returning to the international spotlight.

But it is going to be difficult to see exactly how much better Wagner has gotten because he is still going to play within the context of this team. And team context can hide a lot of things.

The good news though, barring injury or general fatigue, Wagner will be arriving in Orlando hitting the ground running. And that part is exciting. Wagner should be ready to play at a high level when he arrives for training camp — expect that to start Sept. 26.

The same thing happened for Fournier when he played in the 2019 FIBA World Cup where he averaged 19.8 points per game in helping France to a bronze medal and a spot in the Olympics in 2020 (eventually 2021).

Fournier struggled in the 2019 season even as the Magic made the playoffs. He came back in the fall of 2019 and hit the ground running, averaging a career-high 18.5 points per game and shooting a 56.5-percent effective field goal percentage, the best mark since his rookie year.

There may have been some contract year work at play too that season. But Clifford spoke beamingly about the international experience Evan Fournier got and that even Jonathan Isaac got playing with the U.S. Select Team in preparation for the World Cup. Clifford was a big fan of the experience.

Both Wagner brothers will get that experience this summer. But especially for Franz Wagner, it will be a big one to see how he responds and contributes to a team in meaningful games where Germany will have the pressure to perform. Especially as the host country.

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Wagner will get the chance to show himself off this summer. And Magic fans will get a chance to see Wagner play before the season begins.