Moe Wagner’s screening is powerful for Orlando Magic

Moe Wagner lives to do the dirty work and little plays that help the Orlando Magic win. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Moe Wagner lives to do the dirty work and little plays that help the Orlando Magic win. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

Moe Wagner has not done much scoring off the bench for Germany in their warmup games to the FIBA World Cup. It has been a frustrating go as he has sought rhythm and consistency.

Germany has slowly come together, still showing their weaknesses with turnovers and their penchant for settling for 3-point shots. And, yes, they do not always get Franz Wagner involved enough.

Moe Wagner though still finds a way to keep himself involved. He still finds a way to make his impact. And he is still a key cog in the wheel for Germany.

Just look to the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 84-71 win over Greece in Abu Dhabi — the appetizer to Sunday’s matchup with Paolo Banchero and the United States. Wagner finally got his offense going, but it all started with his screening and movement.

The play that sparked him saw him set a screen for Franz Wagner and then roll hard to the basket for a quick pocket pass and layup with the foul. Franz Wagner had 14 points (12 in the first half) and four assists. Many of those assists came in the decisive fourth quarter that saw Germany expand its lead to 20 points.

Moe Wagner was the beneficiary of many of those assists. He finished the game with nine points and six rebounds. But that, as usual, does not really describe his value offensively.

He made his mark with space-creating screens that eventually came back around to him for points. That is how he operates with the Orlando Magic just like he operates with Germany.

Moe Wagner has made his name for the Orlando Magic as a solid screener and roller, soaking up attention by creating space for others. That is his power for his club and national team.

This is a small thing that statistics do not always measure properly. But this is where Wagner gains his power and his value for the Magic — and for his national team.

For the Magic last year, Wagner averaged 2.6 screen assists per game and 5.5 screen assist points per game, trailing only Wendell Carter in both categories according to’s hustle stats. His 4.7 screen assists per 36 minutes and 10.3 screen assist points per game trailed only Mo Bamba on the Magic last year.

According to’s tracking data, the Magic scored 1.10 points per possession on 99 pick-and-roll possessions with Wagner as the roll man. That is the second most possessions as the roll man on the team. And the Magic had a 54.0 percent effective field goal percentage on these plays and got to the line on 20.2 percent of his pick-and-roll roll-man possessions.

Despite this, Basketball-Index says the Magic should score 0.17 more points per 75 possessions on his pick-and-roll plays.

This is all to say, Wagner is someone the Magic use often in screening plays, recognizing his physicality, size and shooting threat make him valuable in springing others free and initiating the offense.

He is extremely effective as the roll man but is good enough as a screener that the Magic should actually be performing better than they do on these plays. That gets back to where Wagner was struggling some in the FIBA World Cup warmup games. He can miss shots around the basket at times.

It helps too that Wagner is a threat from deep and around the basket, forcing teams to be worried about him no matter where he goes after the screen.

He is excellent at creating shots at the rim and shoots 69.47 percent at the rim according to data from Basketball-Index (86th percentile in the league). Basketball-Index rates him at +1.2 for finishing at the rim, placing him in the 86th percentile).

That should give him some roll gravity to suck up defenders. But usually, his shots come from the attention defenders give the man he has just sprung free with a screen, giving him space to crash the basket.

On top of that, Wagner is known for being a foul magnet. He absorbs contact and gets to the line a fair amount — his 3.2 free throw attempts per game was fourth on the team and his 46.0 percent free throw rate trailed only Paolo Banchero on the team.

His screening is the start of all of this. And he is one of the best screeners in the league. Certainly, among backup big men, Wagner makes his mark by helping spring his teammates free.

That is all on display with his national team so far, just as it was on display for the Magic last year. Remember, screening does not always directly lead to a screen assist or points. A play like this one from Saturday’s game perfectly exemplifies Wagner’s screening ability:

It can literally be a simple thing like this. Setting a screen for a curl and popping to the 3-point line can create the space to get a teammate open for a layup. Wagner may not get a screen assist for this play, but his screen and his spacing were vital to its success.

There are dozens of plays like these that stats cannot track throughout the course of a game. They are essential to a team’s success. This is the dirty work that becomes necessary to win games.

If you are asking why the Magic decided to re-sign Wagner to a two-year, $16-million deal, it is in plays like this one. Wagner makes these plays where he springs teammates free for screens and helps them get open to score.

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Wagner is doing this for Germany as they prepare for the World Cup. Just as he will do once again for the Magic when Orlando returns to work in October.