Franz Wagner’s back to earth is still over the moon

Franz Wagner has been a star at finishing at the rim. But even when the Orlando Magic forward is struggling, he finds a way to contribute and star. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Franz Wagner has been a star at finishing at the rim. But even when the Orlando Magic forward is struggling, he finds a way to contribute and star. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

Franz Wagner‘s game of late has been a bit different.

Some of that is the return of injured players as Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony have started impressing themselves more aggressively into the game plan. Wendell Carter’s return is also going to change things for the Orlando Magic — and hopefully for the better considering how successful the “Wagna Carter” pick-and-roll combo is.

Wagner has grown in a lot of areas. It is hard to pinpoint one thing Wagner has done better than anything else. He has taken the things he did well last year and made them better while adding more ball-handling responsibilities to his repertoire.

He is much more effective at getting to and finishing at the basket. This is probably where Wagner has lifted his game more. He is getting to the foul line more, getting to the basket more and finishing more effectively.

The wonder then for Wagner is how his shooting numbers at the rim are seemingly coming back down to earth but he is still finding ways to contribute and make up for them.

Wagner is constantly evolving.

Franz Wagner continues to evolve for the Orlando Magic. Even when he is on a downswing in one area, he finds a way to star.

Wagner is still putting up some crazy good numbers. Even in his worst games, he is putting up some star-level numbers.

Wagner has gotten into the habit of biding his time before finding his groove and hitting big shots late in the game — Wagner is averaging 6.3 points per game in fourth quarters, shooting 43.5 percent from beyond the arc.

Wagner is playing very well this season. His full-season averages are 19.8 points per game on 47.8 percent from the floor and 34.4 percent from beyond the arc. It has been a stellar season for Wagner.

Wagner has improved seemingly everywhere. He is much more comfortable and confident on the ball, creating for himself and others more effectively. He is starting to get back to his cutting game with his ball-handling responsibilities decreasing too.

It has been hard to find an area where Wagner is not improved.

And the best place to start is with his shooting at the rim.

Wagner is shooting 143 for 226 (63.3 percent) within five feet of the rim this season. That equates to 6.6 field goal attempts per game. Last year, Wagner shot 267 for 458 (58.3 percent) for 5.8 attempts per game.

That leap is only amplified by Wagner’s drive frequency and free throw shooting.

Wagner is averaging 12.4 drives per game shooting 50.4 field goal percent on 7.0 field goal attempts per game this season according to Second Spectrum. He averaged 9.1 drives per game on 46.0-percent shooting on 5.5 field goal attempts per game.

In terms of free throws, Wagner is averaging 4.6 attempts per game this year, up from 2.8 attempts per game in his rookie year.

These are all incredible increases for Wagner. The big reason why he is scoring so much more.

And considering how much he struggled from deep to start the season, this is the reason why Wagner was still able to produce.

That is what has been incredible for Wagner is his adaptability. When one part of his game is not working, Wagner quickly finds another part of his game to produce.

Right now, that shooting at the rim is not working as effectively.

During this winning run the last 10 games, Wagner is shooting just 58.6 percent within five feet at 34 for 58 (5.8 field goal attempts per game). In this stretch, Wagner has reverted somewhat back to his rookie-year numbers.

It deserves note that this is still incredibly effective and still a good player. Wagner is able to score and get to the basket when he wants to get there. But he is doing it at a lower rate than he has for most of the season.

In the last five games, Wagner is shooting just 50.0 percent within five feet (17 for 34) on 6.8 attempts per game. This is where Wagner’s crash to earth has been most noticeable of late. He is still getting plenty of shots at the rim and still getting there.

But Wagner is coming down to earth in this stretch. It deserves repeating that if his rookie-year levels are his floor, he is still pretty good at getting to the rim.

This is the most fun Orlando Magic team of the last decade. light. Related Story

This is the larger point though. Wagner may be struggling to finish at the rim or within five feet, but he is still finding other ways to be effective.

In his last 10 games, Wagner is shooting 37.5 percent from beyond the arc on 5.6 3-point attempts per game. That is a significant bump from his 34.4 percent for the year.

His cutting game too is starting to come around to his rookie-year numbers. For the season, he is averaging 1.46 points per possession on 1.3 cut possessions per game this season, shooting 72.7 percent from the floor. Last year, he was at 1.55 points per possession on 1.1 cut possessions per game on 75.6 percent shooting.

Wagner is a multi-level scorer who is able to take on whatever challenges the defense throws at him. And right now, he is finding a way to remain effective no matter what the defense is giving him.

This is what makes Wagner really special.

Right now, Wagner’s shooting around the basket appears to be coming back down to earth. He is still effective, but not at the other-worldly level he was playing at to start the season or that his overall numbers suggest.

Like all things, Wagner is likely to have ups and downs. He will become more effective at the rim once again. The fact the Magic are winning while Wagner is struggling at this important part of his game is a good sign for the team overall.

Next. How the Orlando Magic fixed their defense. dark

Wagner is very good even when one of his best skills is on a downswing. And that is again what makes Wagner very special.