Franz Wagner was a rookie sensation last year for the Orlando Magic. The all-rookie first-teamer turned heads and had major expectations going into his sophomore season.
With Markelle Fultz back and healthy and the addition of the first overall pick Paolo Banchero, there was supposed to be a lot of pressure taken off Franz Wagner and he was supposed to make a second-year jump.
That unfortunately is not exactly how the season played out.
If you were to just take a look at his counting numbers you might see that he jumped up almost three points a game and think that he made a nice second-year leap.
Franz Wagner continues to tease his immense talent and potential. But the Orlando Magic forward did not take the big leap to stardom that his rookie season seemed to promise.
But if you really take a deep dive into his stats and the film you will see that he did not make the second-year leap he should have. He settled in many ways to doing what made his rookie year promising and nothing more. His game did not really expand.
Someone of Wagner’s talent had all the abilities to be a top scorer and an All-NBA defender. That is why it is quite disappointing to see him have somewhat of a sophomore slump.
This season was certainly not a step back but just not as big of a leap as expected for the second-year star. There was a lot that he can build on after this year, but his lack of improvement is definitely a concern, especially after such an impressive rookie season.
Wagner still advanced his game. But he also did not assert himself at times as the team’s best player and more aggressive scorer. Wagner again seemed to fade into the background and the Magic had to make it a point to include him.
One of the main goals fans had for Wagner was for him to go from a 15-point-per-game scorer to a 20-point-per-game scorer. More than that, fans wanted to see him carry over the aggressiveness he played EuroBasket with where he hunted his shot and worked more off the dribble.
Wagner still made noticeable improvements to average 18.6 points per game. He slid in well as a second scorer next to Paolo Banchero.
One big reason that he is not achieving these goals is because of his lack of attempts. Like his rookie season, Wagner seemed content to work on the margins and wait for the ball to swing to him. He was not a primary creator or scorer despite this potential.
Wagner still increased his attempts over his rookie season, taking 14.0 per game. That was 1.7 more attempts per game than last year.
His efficiency numbers were up this year which is a good sign — 48.5 percent overall and 36.1 percent from beyond the arc. But if he shoots so efficiently, why does he not get more volume?
The issue with Wagner is not about his production anymore. It is about getting him the ball more and keeping him involved. And some of that is on Wagner to keep himself involved.
Because he does so many things well.
His assist numbers went up slightly to 3.5 assists per game which is good considering he is an underrated playmaker. But he needs to develop that killer instinct to take his game to that next level and be a top scorer.
That is where the Magic should believe he can reach. They should hold him to a higher standard.
He needs to take over the game, especially in late-game situations and in the fourth quarter so he can lead the Magic to more wins.
Wagner earned the “fourth-quarter Franz” nickname for several big shots late in games. Yet, the numbers do not quite match that nickname. He averaged only 1.8 points per game in clutch situations despite taking the most clutch shots on the team at 1.6 attempts per game.
When the pressure was on, Wagner could score but was not always the most efficient. Wagner could attack the basket, but he could also be quite passive in these moments too. It just did not all click. Not in the way everyone wanted to see for him.
For now, Wagner is one of the better 3-point options for the Magic. So the team needed him to be on the perimeter. And he certainly benefited from that role.
His catch-and-shoot numbers went up to 40.6 percent but his off-the-dribble three-point shooting went down to 29.1 percent. His shot selection can definitely improve his efficiency and his averages.
Wagner is a model of consistency. But his overall numbers dropped after the All-Star Break. He seemed to slow down as the season wore on.
Quite simply, Wagner has the skill to do anything on the court. But he often settled for doing what he was comfortable with. Remember that mini-Dirk Nowitzki fadeaway from early in the season? That was completely gone by midseason.
On the other end, Wagner continues to show a lot of defensive potential. He struggled defensively when he got shifted to guard early in the season when the Magic went big.
Against other forward, he played well. But he is not some all-world defender. And the Magic, while improving defensively as a team, still have a lot of areas to grow as individual defenders.
What limited defensive numbers there seemed to go down — from defended field goal percentage to his ability to create steals and deflections to his on-court defensive rating.
His size advantage on the defensive end does not seem to be helping his rebounding too.
Part of his second-year leap was supposed to be a rebounding improvement. This has not come either. His offensive rebounding, defensive rebounding, and total rebounding all dropped from last year.
Again with the size advantage he displays he should be crashing the boards every play unless he is contesting the shot. The Magic struggled to rebound overall this year so a boost for Wagner’s rebounding, could mean a boost from the team’s rebounding.
Wagner still made a lot of improvements. If anything, Wagner seemed to cement the things he was already good at. He did the things that made his rookie year special but better.
All of his counting stats improved. They all got slightly better. But no Magic fan should settle for slight upgrades and mediocrity.
Wagner can be better. He showed that at EuroBasket and even early on in the season. Wagner seemed to recede back to the comfortable. Which is still very good.
But Wagner can be better.
He was a first-round pick and all-rookie first-teamer. He did not make the clear second-year jump most stars make.
Luckily Wagner is only 21 and only young so he has a lot of time to keep developing. Now that he has cemented many of the things he has good at, he can spend his offseason gaining confidence and adding more to his game. Another strong run in international play can only add to this.
But Orlando needs him to become a star and maybe even a superstar. There are tons of guys who are great but did not make the jump until their third year.
Wagner is nowhere near a bust or a lost cause but a larger second-year jump was surely expected of him and he did not deliver. Magic fans should be hopeful that he can make a bigger leap in year three.