Franz Wagner shows strengths and shortcomings, Paolo Banchero gets shut down

Franz Wagner kicked off his FIBA run with a strong game against Belgium. (Photo by JILL DELSAUX / BELGA/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)
Franz Wagner kicked off his FIBA run with a strong game against Belgium. (Photo by JILL DELSAUX / BELGA/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images) /

The NBA world was eager to see what would happen Saturday night.

Everyone was rolling up to Seattle’s Crawsover pro-am for a mega star event. LeBron James, Jayson Tatum and Aaron Gordon were joining the Seattle natives in Paolo Banchero, Dejounte Murray and Isaiah Thomas, jumping in for this mega game.

It was an event the basketball world in Seattle had been waiting for after the Seattle Supersonics left 15 years ago. The market is hungry for basketball and jumped at the chance to see some of the league’s best come through their town.

Banchero’s last appearance at the Crawsover ended with him dropping 50 points. His last appearance in the Seattle area saw him catch some beef with Murray at the Zeek Weekend pro-am in Tacoma, Wash.

The two seemed to squash that beef with a playful help-up, pat on the back (and a hard slap on the butt from Murray) after Banchero slipped on a drive during their game Saturday.

But that was about it. Aside from James getting off a few highlight-reel dunks and Tatum hitting some tough 3-pointers, the pro-am game was decided more cautious than usual. Condensation in the sold-out gymnasium led to condensation on the court that they could not clean up.

The marquee game was canceled midway through the second quarter because of the unsafe conditions. It became a major letdown.

Paolo Banchero’s marquee return to the Crawsover ended early thanks to condensation on the court. Franz Wagner’s run in FIBA international play is just getting started.

And likely that will be all we see from Banchero for the rest of the summer until training camp begins.

The basketball is not over though. The main event for the offseason is just beginning.

The big basketball event of this offseason begins next week with Eurobasket tipping off in Germany. It is one of the most exciting and best international tournaments there is. And there are going to be a host of NBA players getting some high-level games in right before camp begins — including MVP candidates Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic.

Franz Wagner is already getting his work started with Germany as his team aims to get to the knockout round and, hopefully, to the quarterfinals in their home tournament.

Germany started that prep last week with a few exhibition games. But this weekend featured their first more serious games as they participated in the SuperCup in Hamburg. It was still a preseason tournament at home but featured their first real challenge.

And perhaps the first real chance for Magic fans to get a look at Wagner and where he stands entering the season.

He performed well in Germany’s first exhibition game against Belgium (and sat out the second exhibition game). Wagner did a lot of standing in the corner in that Belgium game, but still had 23 points including a clutch 3-pointer late in the game that secured the win.

Wagner is not disappointing either in his run so far.

In Germany’s 101-90 win over the Czech Republic on Friday, Wagner scored 26 points with a pretty wide array of moves off the dribble along with his usual attacks on the move and off cuts.

Watch for the Dirk Nowitzki one-legged stepback and the nifty and creative finishes around the basket. That is what everyone is eager to see from Wagner.

He can still be a bit of a supporting player. But Wagner always finds his way to make an impact. He can be the complementary player, moving toward the basket off cuts and finishes around the basket and he has shown an increased ability to work off the dribble and hit stepbacks.

It was all there on display.

Things changed in the final Saturday against Serbia. With Dennis Schroder and Daniel Theis out, Franz Wagner struggled to get going.

Wagner scored only five points as Serbia routed Germany 83-56. There will be a lot more put on Wagner if Schroder is unable to play in the near future — for now, he is listed generously as questionable and may not join the team in Sweden for Wednesday’s game.

Serbia is one of the best teams in Europe and among the contenders to win Eurobasket. Germany needs some size to compete with some of these top contenders. There is no shame in losing. But Germany still has plenty of concerns as they get ready for Eurobasket.

If they are going to be without these two key players — in addition to Moe Wagner who bowed out of the summer competitions with an ankle injury suffered in training camp. And they are going to need Wagner to step up and take more control.

That is going to excite Magic fans for the opportunity it will provide. But it may also show some of his limitations.

It should be clear FIBA basketball is not like the NBA in some key respects — zone defenses are allowed for one and play can be a bit more physical in addition to the shorter 3-point line compressing some space. But it is still a good experience for Wagner.

The games get serious this week.

Germany will travel to Sweden for FIBA World Cup Qualifying this week. That should be a win for Germany even in its depleted state. But it is still a game with stakes.

Germany went 5-1 in their first-round group play and are set up well for the second round. Germany should advance to the next round comfortably and qualify for the next round — they have to finish in the top three in their group to qualify.

This qualifying window will be tough with teams preparing for Eurobasket. So they will get Sweden this week and then play Slovenia with Luka Doncic on Saturday. Germany will not be able to clinch their World Cup spot until the latter two qualification windows which will happen during the season.

But these are marquee games leading into Germany’s appearance at Eurobasket. Each major game will put pressure and be a test for Wagner. Especially if he has to step up and be the team’s leading scorer.

That is all anyone wants to see.

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Eurobasket now gets the stage and is the big basketball event for the rest of the offseason. We will see what Wagner will be able to do.