If there is one thing that defines Franz Wagner to this point in his young career, it is dependability.
Last season, he averaged 18.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game. All of which were a jump from his rookie season (excluding rebounds which dropped from 4.5 to 4.1). He appeared in 80 games and started in every single one — a true feat considering the injuries the Magic face last year.
His consistent play and constant progression since entering the league have made him not only a perennial starter for a young and talented Orlando Magic team but also arguably its second-best player and the organization’s most valuable asset behind Paolo Banchero.
The former first-team all-rookie has accomplished quite a lot since the end of the 2023 season.
Franz Wagner and his brother (fellow Magic teammate) Moe Wagner won the FIBA World Cup this summer with Franz Wagner again having a breakout summer on the international stage. They even knocked off the overwhelming favorites in Team USA during the semifinal round.
That added practice and competitive play from the World Cup is sure to positively impact Franz Wagner in the coming season. Refined skills and enhanced confidence have been common byproducts of successful international play during the NBA off-season for players. And for a young player like Wagner, being a part of a professional championship team in any capacity is an invaluable experience.
That is a lot to accomplish in a young career. He has become a reliable figure and budding young star for both club and country. What does he do next? What more can the team ask of him?
Franz Wagner has accomplished a lot in his young career and has established a level of consistency. For him and the Orlando Magic to reach their next level, they will need more.
The Magic though will ask of him the same thing they are asking of everyone on the team: To level up. They will need him to take his game to another level and to bring his teammates with him.
As a young player and leader, the Magic need him to elevate his game and somehow gain more consistency. That is an incredibly difficult thing to do. But all eyes are constantly on Wagner and now that he has established this baseline through two years in the NBA and a stellar World Cup championship run with Germany, everyone just expects more.
Orlando has already asked him to go above and beyond. But there is another level he can clearly reach.
Though still very early in his young career, Wagner has proven to be an incredibly versatile and skilled player. During his short time with the Magic, he has lined up at every wing position and even gotten some run as the team’s primary ball handler. Defensively he can guard 1 through 4 and he continues to show effort and improve his game on that end of the floor.
While the future is obviously bright and the Magic brass are rightfully confident they have a good one in him, there are still some jumps he can make to his game this year to help take him to that next level.
Offensively, Wagner has a well-rounded and versatile skillset, but this year presents him an opportunity to increase his shooting numbers from behind the 3-point arc.
He shot 36.1 percent last year and 35.4 percent from long distance his rookie year. These are more than serviceable numbers, but getting that number closer to the 40 percent mark this year could change a lot for his game and truly make him elite.
Being seen as a more consistent threat from the outside will help open other teammates as he commands added perimeter attention.
Some NBA metrics account for “gravity assists,” which are essentially when a player opens up a teammate due to attracting the attention of his teammate’s primary defender. For example, Stephen Curry is always one of the league’s best in this metric as opposing teams tend to have a seconder defender help on him or hange near him when he does not have the ball. This opens his teammates for better looks.
In theory, this is the kind positive impact increasing Wagner’s 3-point efficiency could have on his game.
Additionally, an increased 3-point percentage could lead to a better dribble-drive game.
Franz Wagner could look to his teammate Wendall Carter as an example of how becoming a better 3-point shooter can make you a better attack the basket player. There was definitely a correlation to Carter’s improvement as an outside shooter and the number of 3-pointer pump fakes he had that led to rim-rattling dunks last season.
Wagner is already an excellent driver, shooting 49.7 percent off 10.8 drives per game accoridng to Second Spectrum. While Wagner is extremely efficient in a lot of areas, this is one area he can get better.
As Wagner becomes a more consistent shooter, parlaying that into a more advanced skillset of shot fakes and drives should lead to similar results.
Common among young players, Wagner could also improve ball security. While Wagner does not necessarily turn the ball over a lot, his assist-to-turnover ratio could be better — 3.5 assists to 2.1 turnovers per game last season is an area he can and should improve. He can be a better playmaker with his size and vision and this will go hand in hand with better forays into the paint.
Banchero’s emergence as a young star lightens the load of the attention Wagner will receive offensively — just as Wagner will ease the attention turned toward Banchero.
The Magic also drafted guard Anthony Black with the No. 6 overall pick this past June. He alongside other great drivers and playmakers and scorers in Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony should help to keep Franz Wagner playing in his more comfortable and natural position off the ball and on the wing for the majority of the game.
The greatest way for Wagner to help his team during its chase to make the playoffs this season is relatively simple: Continue to put the work in, become more consistent in all areas of the game, establish the adjustments he needs to make to his role (based on personnel and philosophy changes) and refine or enhance the skills he has in place to go from “good young NBA player” to “great NBA player.”
He already served notice of that in the World Cup. Wagner just fits into the offense and he can find his pockets to score as a 3-point shooter and floor spacer just as easily as he can driving to the basket or working the pick and roll.
Wagner is the kind of player who feels like he should get more shots, even though he was second on the team last year in field goal attempts per game. That is probably the best way to describe the generally positive play he had.
While It is probably not a year Magic fans should expect Wagner to make the NBA All-Star team, there is a lot of reason to hope he makes another jump closer to it. He has continued to shine not only in the NBA, but also in international play on a yearly basis.
As he helped to take the World Cup by storm this past summer, Magic fans are hoping he does the same during this coming NBA season. Orlando will just have to wait and see how it all plays out but this season along with the rest of his career, should be a fun one to follow.