In this Franz Wagner NBA Draft Profile, we’ll break down some of Michigan wing’s strengths and weaknesses and what makes him such an interesting prospect. He showed flashes of brilliance in his two years at Michigan, especially his sophomore year on a top-seeded team who shocked many all year. Wagner was a big reason for that as he definitely took that patented sophomore year leap and was able to show off numerous aspects of his game. He struggled in the NCAA Tournament this year but he was excellent yet streaky throughout the regular season.
Let’s get into why Franz Wagner is seen as a first-round pick in this summer’s upcoming NBA Draft.
Defense and Versatility
This is what has most scouts and front offices fairly excited about Franz Wagner. His defensive IQ is noticeable when you watch him play. His ability to help, recover, and jump passing lanes is what makes those who watch him so excited. He’s overall solid as an on-ball defender but will never be counted on as a lockdown defender at the next level. His ability off-ball it’s what gets the real praise. He’s always engaged and never seems to be out of position. Another thing you always seem to notice when watching Wagner on the defensive end is how well he communicates. He’s a vocal defender in zone and man, something you don’t always see from sophomore’s in the college game but Wagner stood out in this regard.
— HoopsWill (@HoopsWill) May 24, 2021
He’s not an elite shot-blocker by any means but he does have the occasional block as a weak-side helper. He does a nice job of staying vertical when challenging drivers as the help defender and rarely is in foul trouble.
It will be interesting to watch what positions Wagner ultimately covers at the next level. He’s got great size and a plus-three wingspan but probably isn’t quite strong enough to cover fours in the pros. He’ll likely be tasked with covering wings and should be trusted to play good team defense to whichever team selects him in the first round.
On offense, Wagner excels in transition, as a cutter, and attacking closeouts in the halfcourt. His ability to isolate and go get a bucket is fairly limited although his handle is fairly solid for a guy his size. He’s also excellent as a passer and pretty effective as a pick and roll passer and scorer. 22% of the possessions he finished at Michigan this past year were as a pick and roll scorer.
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Wagner’s passing is going to be so valuable for his on-ball reps. Love how he stares down the weak side to freeze the help defender, before casually dropping in a perfect bounce pass. pic.twitter.com/AMQl6VK4LY
— Brandon Simberg (@BrandonSimberg) May 19, 2021
In the clip above you can see another facet of Wagner’s that excites people is the way, he passes as a big 6’9″ wing. Similar to the way he seems to be in the correct position at all times on defense, he plays in a similar way on offense. He does a good job of finding open spots and crevices all over the floor where his teammates find him. He excels at getting lost in screens and in turn attacking those closeouts when his man re-finds him.
Wagner was continually in the paint finding his teammates for easy baskets and free throw opportunities. Still believe he’s being undervalued a bit by consensus. pic.twitter.com/p1vzcoExj7
— HoopsWill (@HoopsWill) May 24, 2021
Wagner is way too streaky at this point in time and can’t be relied on as a player who can knock down shots consistently. He’s shot over 80% from the free-throw line so the touch is there. Those who shoot poor percentages from the field and especially from three are often tagged as players who can greatly improve when they shoot well from the line as Wagner does. What’s interesting with Wagner is he does have a solid compact form with a good follow-through when shooting from a spot-up position. There’s a good chance he can improve pretty rapidly as he transitions to the league and has more time to work on his game. If he can improve this skill in the coming years he should able to easily find a way to stick in this league as a three-and-D wing.
NBA Comparison: Gordon Hayward
Franz Wagner plays sort of similar to how Gordon Hayward did at Butler. They sort of move the same as non-explosive athletes who seem to glide around the court and show off outstanding IQs. Both measures out around 6’9″ and flash high-level passing skills. Although, Hayward was a better scorer coming out of school. Neither were great shooters but showed the form that hinted they could become capable shooters as they continue to grow at the next level. Wagner may never become the player that Hayward has turned himself into but should no doubt be able to carve out a nice long career that players who possess his smarts often do.