Franz Wagner has not been afraid to be aggressive this season

Franz Wagner has turned in some strong games for the Orlando Magic of late as his increased aggression is delivering results.
Franz Wagner has turned in some strong games for the Orlando Magic of late as his increased aggression is delivering results. / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Franz Wagner has always been an unassuming player.

Fans have constantly complained during the last two years about Wagner not getting enough shots or getting lost within the offense. They want to see him boost his shot attempts and be more aggressive.

With his efficiency and his ability to create shots, everyone sees a future star in Wagner. Never mind that in his first two seasons, Wagner ranked second in field goal attempts per game in each season. Wagner was efficient and everyone just wanted more.

Wagner works well for the team because he can both be an attacker getting downhill and a spot-up shooter as an outlet for others driving. His shot diet can be varied and wide.

What the Orlando Magic have been trying to get more of out of Wagner is his aggression. They are trying to give him the shot diet of a star player and let him turn loose. Wagner has a green light.

This has been Wagner's biggest adjustment. And that is what made Sunday's game so promising as he seemed to find a rhythm that has been missing this season.

Franz Wagner turned in his first 30-point game Sunday. The Orlando Magic forward has been more aggressive hunting his shot and has started to see some results.

Sunday's 130-117 win over the Charlotte Hornets saw everything the Orlando Magic are hoping to see from him. He attacked the basket aggressively, draining floaters over the defense and getting to the rim for layups. He got out in transition and took passes to get to the layup.

Ten of his 15 shots in his 30-point, 11-for-15 effort in Sunday's win came right at the rim. He made his first nine shots in the game, scoring 10 in the second quarter and 13 in the third quarter to help the Magic pull away.

Wagner's size and creativity to finish make him a potentially dynamic attacker. That is what fans have seen. It has just been about putting all those pieces together.

Like so many other things it is about finding balance and rhythm, especially after a busy summer for the young forward.

"I think part of it is mental," Wagner said after Sunday's game. "I definitely put the work in. It's frustrating when they don't go in. Just got to fight through that and trust your work and trust they will fall. The shots felt really good today. I think the biggest thing was to stay confident and keep taking good ones as well."

Wagner has not had the season everyone is used to from him.

He is averaging 19.5 points per game, up from last year. But his shooting efficiency has dipped. Wagner had shooting splits of 48.5/36.1/84.2 last year. This year he is sitting at 45.2/29.2/82.5. Those are the worst shooting numbers of his career so far.

What made Wagner so promising was how he was able to score efficiently despite all the shot attempts. He is taking a career-high 16.6 field goal attempts per game (up from 14.0 per game last year), showing a newfound level of aggression. His usage rate jumped from 23.5 percent last year to 25.5 percent this year.

His 3-point attempts especially have jumped from 4.5 per game to 5.4 per game. Like with so many young players, he is still finding the best way to play the role the Magic need from him.

And like Paolo Banchero with his early season struggles, Franz Wagner has started to find a bit of a groove. He is averaging 20.0 points per game on 47.1/27.1/77.3 shooting splits in November. There are plenty of signs of life that he is returning to the efficiency everyone is accustomed to.

Still a lot of his shots are coming from the same areas and the best areas for him to score.

Wagner is taking 175 of his 281 field goal attempts within 10 feet of the basket -- 10.3 attempts per game of his 16.5 attempts per game. He is making 53.7 percent of those shots. Last year, he was at 8.0 attempts per game inside 10 feet at 56.9 percent.

Additionally, he is shooting 22 for 57 on wide-open shots, when the closest defender is more than six feet away, this season (3.4 wide-open shot attempts per game). That represents 20.3 percent of his total shot attempts. Last year he took 2.7 wide-open field goal attempts per game at 46.3 percent shooting.

Wagner is getting good shots even as he has increased his volume. It is just about making them, the part he is trying to work.

Wagner is trying to do a lot more for the Magic this year. That much is clear. And it is starting to turn into bigger games like his 30-point effort Sunday night or his 24-point second-half effort against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday.

"I think his ability to see and communicate the things that he sees. That’s not easy for a lot of people to do because he sees the game a little bit differently because of his IQ," coach Jamahl Mosley said after Wednesday's win over the Nuggets. "But, in a way, he’s able to communicate it with his teammates is very special. And then at the end, I mean, he had 24 points in the second half. They challenged him and he stepped up and he made big play after big play."

The Magic certainly still have a lot of faith in Wagner to find his way. There is no doubt that he is much more aggressive and assertive looking for his shots.

Wagner has five games with 18 or more shot attempts this season. He had only 15 such games last year. Wagner recorded nine games with 20 or more field goal attempts last year, with only one win. This year, Wagner has two of those games -- both in wins.

The Magic are clearly better when Wagner is being aggressive even if his shooting percentages have not followed. Orlando is certainly happy to have Wagner be aggressive. But there is always a balance that the team has to find.

But Wagner is unassuming. He might be getting more shots this year, but he is still trying to find the best way to fit in and make the right play.

"I just try to make the right play," Wagner said after Wednesday's win over the Nuggets. "I was probably overthinking it a little bit. But at the end of the day, I tried to come out aggressive and still make the right play. I was able to get a rhythm in the third quarter."

Wagner has been working to improve and get his shot back too. Sunday's breakthrough, coming off solid games against the Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics. His numbers too are starting to level and Wagner is putting himself in a position to be more aggressive and score.

It is better at this point to be too aggressive it seems. He joked after taking 28 field goal attempts in the win over the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this month that he was perhaps a bit too aggressive. But that mindset has carried him through the season.

Wagner is being more aggressive this season and it is paying off for the Magic. Eventually that aggression will turn into som efficiency. And so the Magic are eager to see Wagner continue to push for his own shots and grow his game.

Magic not surprised by early season success. Orlando Magic aren't surprised by early season success. dark. Next

If nights like Sunday become more commonplace, that is going to mean Wagner is taking a huge leap in his game.