Orlando Magic need to see Franz Wagner build on rookie season at Eurobasket

Franz Wagner is getting set to suit up for Germany in Eurobasket with a chance t grow his game. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Franz Wagner is getting set to suit up for Germany in Eurobasket with a chance t grow his game. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

The basketball desert is finally providing NBA fans an oasis.

As fun as the pro-am circuit is, everyone knows it is not real. There is poor defense and questionable effort. The games, in the end, are completely meaningless. It is hard to learn anything besides getting some highlights during these games.

Games with some real pressure are the best way for any player to grow and develop. That is why there is always some hand-wringing for teams at the bottom of the standings. There is only so much that can happen from experience.

The debate over the value of playing for the national team is still one that can be weighed between pros and cons. Undoubtedly Franz Wagner making his national team debut with Germany in this year’s Eurobasket is a good thing for the young forward.

And that journey is getting ready to begin.

Franz Wagner is getting set to suit up for his national team with a chance to grow and develop in an expanded role or in a supercharged role at Eurobasket.

Franz and Moritz Wagner both put on the jersey for the national team’s media day earlier this week and they will play their first friendly against Belgium on Wednesday. They play two games in FIBA World Cup qualifying against Sweden on Aug. 25 and Luka Doncic and Slovenia on Aug. 28.

Germany opens play at Eurobasket on Sept. 1 against France.

Unfortunately, the German basketball team announced Moe Wagner will miss the summer tournament because of an ankle injury suffered Tuesday.

There is still a lot of prep to go to get there. And Germany will still be coming together as a team. This is Franz Wagner’s first run with the national team. He is not likely to be the star a lot of Magic fans are hoping for in this tournament.

It is important to understand this part. This is Dennis Schroder’s team, as silly as that might sound to NBA fans. But Wagner still can gain a lot from the experience. And the Magic will almost assuredly watch these games closely to see hints of where Wagner is going.

Everyone is already commenting on Wagner’s seemingly improved physique. Now the question is whether the game will match.

Wagner had a truly special rookie year, averaging 15.2 points per game and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting a 51.7-percent effective field goal percentage. Wagner was named to the All-Rookie First Team and was a shoo-in for it among a very special rookie class.

Everyone is eager to see where Wagner takes his game next. He was very possibly the Magic’s best player last year. A player Magic fans were screaming for more from and for the Magic to feature more of as his rookie year concluded.

That is not likely what we will see when Wagner takes the floor for Germany, even if Germany will need a good performance from him to advance out of the group stage and have a breakthrough performance in their home tournament.

So what do the Magic need to see from Wagner?

A lot of it needs to be a continuation of his play with the Magic. Germany with its fairly stacked roster — it not only includes Franz Wagner and Dennis Schroeder but also Daniel Theis and national team stalwarts Johannes Thiemann and Johannes Voigtmann.

Without Moe Wagner on the court, this could open some things up for Franz Wagner to be more assertive. But a lot of Germany’s game will run through Schroeder. He dropped 38 points in a recent World Cup Qualifier. Expect a lot of Schroder driving the ship throughout Eurobasket.

But if there is one thing Franz Wagner has proven, it is that he can find a way to make an impact without the ball.

Wagner did all of his scoring and impact on the Magic last year while posting just a 21.2-percent usage rate. Wagner can thrive in an atmosphere where everyone is sharing the ball. He makes the most of his opportunities.

And so Magic fans may not see Wagner take gigantic leaps on the court through this tournament. So at the very least, they should see Wagner look like the better version of how he played in Orlando.

That is probably the biggest thing the Magic and fans will want to see from him.

It is unclear how Germany will use Wagner. Based on talent, Wagner should get some on-ball looks. But that is not always how these international teams work.

Wagner is the rookie on the team and is likely going to be treated as such in some ways. His time to lead Germany will come in future iterations.

And Germany is indeed in something of a renaissance.

Germany reached the Olympics last summer for the first time since 2008, qualifying through the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. They reached the quarterfinals in the 2017 Eurobasket tournament but had not reached the quarterfinals since 2007.

They currently rank 11th in the FIBA World Rankings.

Right now, Germany is considered a bubble team for the quarterfinals. It is no guarantee Germany gets out of its group — the top four teams in each group will advance to the knockout round of 16. Germany is grouped with defending tournament champion Slovenia (with Luka Doncic) along with France (with Evan Fournier and Rudy Gobert) and traditional power Lithuania.

Germany should still get out of the group, but they are likely to finish third or fourth in the group.

Being at home in Germany will be a big boost to the young team for sure though. That should help overcome injury or any talent deficiencies. Eurobasket crowds are wild and this is a major tournament.

This is a great opportunity for Wagner though. And it will be a big tournament for him. He will get the chance to play some vitally important games. Every game in the FIBA World Cup Qualifying in the next few weeks and Eurobasket will be filled with pressure.

Even if Wagner is playing a supercharged version of his role in Orlando, it will be vitally important for his development. He will get a lot out of the next month playing for his national team.

Next. Paolo Banchero caught beef from Dejounte Murray. dark

And, yes, we get to watch some Franz Wagner basketball.