Orlando Magic fans had a mixed reaction to Franz Wagner when the team drafted him a couple of years ago. Now he has established himself as one of the cornerstones and faces of this franchise.
He has improved each of his two seasons. Even playing international basketball in both off-seasons while in the NBA. He was able to help Germany win the World Cup this summer.
All the while he turned heads on the court and has become one of the darlings of the NBA Internet. Wagner is on the path to stardom.
Orlando fans just want to see what comes next for him. He remains a key part of the team and a central figure in their growth.
The Orlando Magic have some strong aspirations and expectations this season. Franz Wagner will be a huge part of that. The third-year forward will be a huge part on both ends of the floor.
He has already improved a bunch and shown a ton of growth from rookie season to sophomore season.
He went from averaging 15.2 points per game to 18.6 points per game. His efficiency improved as well. He went from 46.8 to 48.5 percent shooting from the field. And he went from 35.4 to 36.1 percent shooting from the 3-point line. Overall, his effective field goal percentage also went up from 51.7 to 54.3 percent.
So there is something to that, there is a valid reason to believe Wagner will improve even more in his third season. He has shown he can consistently be the focal point of this Magic squad. He can help take pressure off of Paolo Banchero if the defenses key up on him.
Still, there are plenty of areas Wagner can continue to improve.
The first thing Wagner can improve on is his rebounding. His rebounding went down from 4.5 to 4.1 in his first two seasons. Wagner at 6-foot-10 has to make it more of a focal point to rebound and attack the boards. If he can get that number to 6, that would help the Magic a ton.
The Magic were 16th among 30 teams last season in rebounding. That is not too bad or too good, they are right there in the middle of the pack. If Wagner can get a couple more boards, it will help the Magic close out possessions better and prevent the other team from getting second-chance looks.
He did show glimpses of that in the FIBA World Cup this summer.
He averaged 6.5 rebounds per game. Of those, 4.8 were defensive boards while the other 1.7 were offensive rebounds. That is extremely encouraging to see. Wagner also noticeably looks stronger coming into this season. That will help him be more aggressive on the boards.
The second way Wagner can improve is his shooting.
He has been fine shooting the ball. In fact, he has been very efficient if we look at his overall shooting. However, his 3-point shooting has been league-average. He has been right around the 36-percent mark. That is certainly not bad in any regard.
But it is about leveling up, if Wagner can get to around 38 percent, that will do wonders for him and his teammates. It will open up the floor more for him to drive the ball, due to the fact defenders will close out harder on him. Driving the ball is undoubtedly his strength, he can finish over anybody.
His teammates will also be more open due to the closeout of Wagner’s primary defender being harder, so if Wagner gets past him, the help defender would have to come. That as a result would open up his teammates for a wide-open shot.
Wagner has already shown glimpses of that, as oftentimes the help defender ended up being the opposing team’s big man and Wagner would lob it up to Wendell Carter Jr. for the easy dunk.
In the preseason, Wagner got proficient at whipping the ball overhead to the opposite corner for open corner threes. This seems like a big part of the Magic’s offense, especially with their big forwards getting downhill.
This is the third way Wagner can improve — with his playmaking and by limiting his turnovers.
That is a big emphasis for coach Jamahl Mosley this season. He mentioned this at media day and also before the Magic’s first preseason game against the New Orleans Pelicans. President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman also mentioned this on media day. They both believe the Magic need to play “smarter basketball and limit their mistakes.”
Wagner averaged 2.1 turnovers last season. And he averaged only 3.5 assists to go along with that.
For a guy averaging 3.5 assists per game, 2.1 turnovers per game is quite a bit. Now, it does make sense that some of those turnovers resulted in Wagner driving the ball and getting stripped at times. That happens and those types of turnovers are fine because he is being aggressive with the ball.
During the FIBA World Cup, Wagner averaged 3.0 assists per game and 2.5 turnovers per game. While it makes sense that this happened due to FIBA basketball being a bit more clogged up, which led to Wagner’s driving lanes having more defenders swipe at the ball. He did make a lot of good passes during the World Cup. The numbers will not show it because his teammates missed some of those looks.
But being aggressive and playing the right way will certainly help Wagner improve his playmaking and limit his turnovers.
All in all, there is no doubt Wagner is an exceptional player. There are not really any true weaknesses to his game.
He is and will be for the foreseeable future a huge part of the Magic’s organization both on and off the court.
The Magic’s success on the court should determine whether he picks up an All-Star selection. He, alongside Paolo Banchero, will be a great duo for many years to come. Magic fans have all the reasons to be super excited.