World Cup put Franz Wagner on the stage, Orlando Magic have to build on it

Franz Wagner is a World Cup champion. Now he and the Orlando Magic have to build on his offseason successes. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)
Franz Wagner is a World Cup champion. Now he and the Orlando Magic have to build on his offseason successes. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images) /

Franz Wagner is not someone who typically seeks the spotlight.

He still has the boyish look of a young man who is still learning the world around him, even if he has been around the world and experienced a lot in a few short professional years.

Wagner has probably never played on a bigger stage than the one he was playing on. He has certainly never been on a bigger stage than where he was after Germany took home the FIBA World Cup gold medal with an 83-77 victory over Serbia.

This was a big stage for everybody. Pressure games and the whole basketball world’s attention was trained on this game. It was a good test to see how so many players would rise or fall to the occasion.

Wagner is never really someone who seeks the limelight. That may end up being one of his few weaknesses as he continues to grow. But every young player needs to see how they play under this pressure and see how they can help a team win.

Franz Wagner and Germany took home the gold medal at the FIBA World Cup. Now that Wagner has won on a huge stage, he and the Orlando Magic must use the experience to build each other up.

Pressure in must-win games is real. And now both Franz and Moe Wagner have the experience of success in these pressure situations.

They are champions and are bringing that to the Orlando Magic in three weeks when training camp opens.

Just what impact will that have? That could be immeasurable.

But now one of the Magic’s young stars has the taste of winning — the other of disappointment with winning expectations — and that can only make the team better.

That can only make Franz Wagner better too.

Whether he likes it or not, Wagner is now in the spotlight. He has performed on the big stage and he will have big stage expectations. That is something he should welcome and something the Magic want to see from their young forward.

Like when he came back from his breakout Eurobasket run last summer, Wagner is going to be expected to take another step forward this year. He has had the taste of a championship and that should feed him and his teammates to play for something real this coming season.

Expectations are different for both the Magic and Wagner now. And having a trophy and championship under his belt should only raise Wagner’s expectations for himself and his teammates for what they are capable of.

Especially considering how big of a contribution Wagner made to both Germany and will make for the Magic.

That is not to say Wagner still does not have parts of his game he needs to improve to get himself there. The World Cup final had the effect of showing everything that makes Wagner great but also where he still has to improve.

That is what pressure games and series tend to do.

Wagner was named the game’s Player of the Game after scoring 19 points and grabbing seven rebounds. He was as important as any player for Germany in seeing his national team breakthrough for its first World Cup title.

He scored 14 of those 19 points in the first half before Serbia’s defense tightened up and held him to 4-for-11 shooting overall (he made only one of his six shots in the second half, a deep 3-pointer, and got to the line for two free throws).

Wagner definitely was forcing some action but Serbia did a good job walling him up and sitting on his right hand. He found it difficult to break through in the second half. Wagner was getting to the basket or not getting a shot off at all. This remains a weakness of his as he usually finds it fairly easy to attack rotating defenses and get to his spots to finish around the rim.

The bonus was that throughout the run with Germany, Wagner has been getting to the line. Seeing him supplement his scoring with 11 free throw attempts in Sunday’s game only followed his attempting 22 free throws in four games (5.5 per game).

Wagner’s game continues to expand and grow, even as he continues to be excellent as a floor spacer and driver. He had three steals in this game and five total in his four games. He was excellent defensively in Sunday’s game.

Just as he was excellent as always at moving the ball and finding others. It did not always lead to assists, but Wagner’s greatest strength remains understanding when to break off a drive and keep the ball moving and when there is a gap for him to score. He just has to understand when and where to force his own scoring to keep himself involved.

He at least showed a willingness to take shots and to press his offense more this summer. How much that will translate is still the question.

That will still be the question for everything we saw from Wagner — and Banchero and the others — from the World Cup.

Wagner had a big game on the big stage even if there were some areas he could clearly improve. Despite some improved decision-making late, the ball was in Dennis Schroder’s hands to close the game — it was his layup with less than 30 seconds left that finally put Serbia away for the win.

This was a big offseason for Wagner. And the World Cup, even with Wagner missing four games, gave him a showcase and a stage to display that improvement.

Expectations for Wagner are obviously through the roof for what he will bring back to Orlando now. Just as they were last summer after his break out at Eurobasket.

That dovetailed into a season where Wagner got better in nearly every statistical category — from his scoring averages to his efficiency and plenty more. Another leap could be in store for Wagner as he steadily improves.

But now that he has a taste of winning a major trophy, perhaps he is thinking about something bigger. Perhaps he wants something that means a bit more. That is what the World Cup has laid in front of him.

That is what it has meant for the Magic as a whole. Their best players were playing for something and were forced to learn what it would take to win for their club team.

Wagner has proven himself now to be a player who can perform on these big stages. He still has a lot to improve upon. He is still a very young player, after all. But now he has winning experience under his belt. Now he has a championship under his belt.

Next. Orlando Magic are going to find out who they are in 2024. dark

The World Cup gave Wagner a stage. Now the Magic have to build on it and Wagner has to build on it for them.