2024 Orlando Magic Player Outlook: Moe Wagner is the spark off of the bench

Moritz Wagner of the Orlando Magic reacts (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
Moritz Wagner of the Orlando Magic reacts (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) /

In a single moment, Moe Wagner can change the tenor of a game.

He could cut to the rim and throw down a nasty one-handed dunk over Kristaps Porzingis in a win over the Washington Wizards. He could also just as easily get under an opponent’s skin with some well-timed trash talk or shout after a teammate’s big play.

Wagner is a fantastic teammate — the kind of guy you want on your team but would hate playing against. But he is far more than that. He is an energy booster for the team coming off the bench. That is his role.

And whatever that entails.

Wagner is back for year four with the Orlando Magic with a fresh two-year, $16 million deal. And he is here once again to bring that energy off the bench.

He is an aggressive player off of the low post who can be a threat to opposing teams anytime he steps onto the floor.

Moe Wagner has firmly entrenched himself with the Orlando Magic as an energy and sometimes irritant off the bench. Wagner’s energy off the bench will again be key for the team’s development.

Wagner is not a perfect player. He can continue his development with the Magic by working on defense and limiting the turnovers.

Wagner can use his strengths like rebounding and a sneaky three-point shot to help Orlando this upcoming season. If he does this, the spark he provides for Orlando off of the bench will become even brighter.

Wagner is a part of a stretched center core for Orlando. He often plays behind starting center Wendell Carter and with the season right around the corner, it looks like he will do that again.

He has shown hints of being a backup center and will look to fight for that in training camp prior to the season beginning. It will be his goal for him to find a fit on the team. Fellow big man Goga Bitadze will be a challenge for that role this season as he was an impressive player for Orlando toward the end of the season.

A key to good playoff teams in the NBA is rebounding. The Magic are already a decent rebounding team as far as where they rank amongst teams in the league. They rank 15th in the NBA among all teams. With six of the top 10 teams being playoff teams last season, this puts the Magic on a trajectory toward success as such.

Wagner was certainly a contributing factor to this. He averaged 4.5 rebounds per game last season. He was especially productive on the defensive glass as accounted for 19 percent of all rebounds that came down while he was playing in games.

The offense coming from Wagner may also not be too explosive, but there are points of it that are surprisingly good. Throughout last season, 25.5 percent of Wagner’s points came from the three-point shot showing that the idea of him being multi-dimensional on the offensive floor is there.

He also made 22.9 percent of Orlando’s three-pointers last year showing he was a part of the offensive attack for the Magic from beyond the arc. Improvements in three-point shooting can make Wagner a big threat on the offensive end.

That should not take away from Wagner’s play on the block. He is also excellent cleaning up the offensive glass and working the low block. He scored 1.29 points possession on 28 post-up possessions last year, according to data from NBA.com.

Wagner’s versatility on offense makes him a surprising weapon for the team, even if he is mostly a scavenger around the basket.

Wagner’s defense is something to take note of though.

He is great at showing aggression as he was responsible for 30 percent of the team’s fouls. This is where he gets the reputation of being a scrap on defense amongst everyone in the league. Although this can imply a lack of fundamentals on defense, he is not afraid of contact while in the game. He led the Magic in charges taken last season, exemplifying what he can do.

But the fundamentals of defense are where he falls short. He is relatively decent at steals accounting for 20 percent of the team’s total steals. But, he accounted for just 13 percent of Orlando’s total blocks. This number has dropped drastically since his first season in Orlando in 2020 when he had accounted for 39 percent of the Magic’s blocks.

This is an area where Bitadze has an advantage over him. Wagner’s paint defense has left something to be desired.

Opponents shot 75.5 percent at the rim against Wagner, according to data from Second Spectrum. That was the worst mark for centers who played at least 41 minutes last season. Moe Wagner led the team in charges with 17, double that of second-place Jalen Suggs at eight.

At 6 -foot-11, Wagner can certainly be more effective in shot-blocking, especially because he plays center and is often down low on the defensive side of the floor. This improvement on the defensive end will give him a more defined purpose off of the bench within the frontcourt.

Limiting turnovers will also help Wagner a lot this season.

Wagner is already a spark off of the bench. He is a tenacious player on defense who can collect both steals and rebounds while in the game. But there is still development to do in year four in Orlando. He can improve himself as an interior defender with better shot-blocking.

On the offensive end, he has a secret weapon in his arsenal with the three-point shot. It can be used more if fine-tuned and can help the long-range shooting problem for the Magic.

Another way to open up the offensive game for him beyond the shooting is the turnovers. He can limit them much more which thus opens his scoring opportunities not only inside the paint but also beyond the three where he can thrive in the future.

Wagner’s main goal this year will again to bring a spark off the bench. That could be making a big play that helps the team on offense with a big dunk or shot or could be making a charge that just annoys opponents that little much more.

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Wagner is as settled as he has been at any time in his career. He will have to fight to keep his role as the backup center, but his dynamic play and spark should have him contributing once again to the Magic this year.