Franz Wagner wins a bronze medal in breakout EuroBasket

Franz Wagner had a breakout tournament in helping Germany win a bronze medal at EuroBasket. (Photo by TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images)
Franz Wagner had a breakout tournament in helping Germany win a bronze medal at EuroBasket. (Photo by TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images) /

Franz Wagner had been largely uninvolved in Germany’s bronze medal game with Poland.

A mixture of Poland’s trapping defense, zone scheme in the paint and foul trouble had Wagner hanging around the perimeter as Germany tried to find a way to get inside again and create some space.

Poland trailed by double digits but worked its way back into the game in the fourth quarter, tying it at one point. Germany still never really blinked despite the frustrations from the rest of the game.

Johannes Voigtmann hit a two of his four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to give Germany some space. Dennis Schroder hit a pair of big threes to put the game out of reach.

Then finally Wagner had his moment. He drove baseline on the closeout for Poland and dished it to Johannes Thiemann who layed it in and drew a foul. At that moment everyone on Germany let out a celebratory scream. After all the struggles, they could finally feel the medals around their necks.

Germany completed a stellar EuroBasket with a bronze medal as Franz Wagner stepped out in a big way on the international stage.

Germany probably still regrets the way they finished their semifinal loss to Spain. But they should feel nothing but pride in winning the bronze medal.

Wagner was principally uninvolved in the bronze medal game, scoring just eight points on 3-for-5 shooting. But Germany had enough to defeat Poland 82-69, completing a fantastic and surprising tournament run from the host nations.

This was the kind of game Magic fans always fear and worry about with Wagner. Games where defenses are able to lock him out by stifling ball movement or games where the ball just does not find him.

The reason there is a perception Wagner is not involved enough, despite stats to the contrary, is because of games like these where Wagner is relegated to a spot-up shooter in the corner.

There was a lot of this for Wagner in this tournament. But that is perhaps the first area where Wagner has shown growth. His 3-point shooting improved dramatically and he was deadly efficient for Germany throughout the tournament.

His final average for the tournament was 15.2 points per game (pretty good for a guy who was not super involved, right?) with shooting splits of 53.1/46.3/88.9. He dipped below 50-percent shooting from deep thanks to a difficult 1-for-7 showing in the semifinal against Spain (another game where it felt like Germany did not find him enough, the common theme in both of Germany’s losses).

Wagner was not merely a standstill shooter either. He showed incredible improvement creating space for his shot, hitting several step-back three-pointers from NBA range as defenders worried about his driving and ability to get to the basket at his size.

Wagner had a stellar rookie season — he was first-team all-rookie in a great rookie class, after all. If all he did this offseason was improve his 3-point shooting and his ability to create 3-point shots, then that will be a significant improvement for him as a player.

Wagner was still more than capable of having big scoring bursts. And the Magic will certainly look to involve him more than Germany did.

Germany largely treated him as the rookie, putting more trust in veteran players like Dennis Schroder to create and running plays to get Daniel Theis looks in the post or other veterans for the national team. Germany put the ball in Schroder’s hands a lot and let the defense dictate where they went.

Defenses quickly learned to respect Wagner as he had a significant amount of gravity to pull defenders toward him and open up space for others.

That is where Wagner’s biggest offensive strength lies. He makes everyone better with his presence. He is incredibly smart as a cutter and finds ways to make an impact even without plays being run for him.

Essentially, Wagner’s offense was simply better at everything he did well for the Magic last year. He just seemingly took a step up in every aspect of his game.

The question for the Magic will be where has he grown beyond what he was great at last year. And then, how will the Magic use him differently?

One area where Wagner certainly has made some noticeable growth is with his defense. He may not have the footspeed to guard the faster wings in the league, but his positioning and his sense for help side are much stronger with experience. He consistently anticipated where to go in help side and anticipated rotations to close down driving lanes and gum up offenses.

That was on full display in the win over Poland. He did a great job keeping Poland on the perimeter and challenging shots in the paint consistently.

Wagner’s EuroBasket play certainly increases the anticipation for this coming season and what he can do.

In all, this was an impressive tournament for Wagner. He showed he could score in bursts and that he had expanded his game in many ways. More importantly, he showed he has made his strengths a whole lot better.

In the NBA environment, that could be the prelude to a big season.

The one thing that became clear throughout EuroBasket is that it is harder to hide him now. The whole world knows how good he can be. It will be his task this year and heading into next season to find ways to make sure he asserts himself and stays involved.

Wagner can be such a good teammate that he does not always look for his own shots — even then, having him on the ball with his unselfishness will set others up and keep them open.

That will be the biggest task for Orlando this year — and for Germany as the team looks ahead to the World Cup next summer — keeping Wagner involved and finding him opportunities on the ball (not necessarily shots, which should come in the course of the game). That right now seems to be the biggest impediment to Wagner’s potential stardom.

It is here that it is important to remember Wagner did all this while still turning 21 years old this summer. He has a lot of growing and a lot of development to go in his (hopefully) long career.

The bronze medal is prize enough for now. A huge achievement for Germany as it returns to the basketball stage following Dirk Nowitzki’s retirement.

Next. Orlando Magic expect everyone to be a leader this season. dark

This will be the tournament everyone remembers for Wagner’s introduction on the international stage. It may well be the tournament that kicks off a stellar second season.