We analyze the game of Magic forward Franz Wagner with Germany at EuroBasket
On individual and at the team level, Orlando Magic forward Franz Wagner’s time with the German men’s national basketball team during EuroBasket 2022 was a success.
Individually, Wagner shone. With averages of 16.2 points (53.6% shooting from the field — 55.9% on 2s, 50% on 3s), 4 rebounds and 1.4 assists, Wagner gave a glimpse of why The German basketball magazine “BASKET” they call him “The face of the new generation”. The highlight of his tournament play was his 32-point, 8-rebound performance in a double-overtime win over Lithuania on September 4.
As a team, Germany performed better in the group stage matches than most expected, going 4-1 in Group B to qualify for the 16-team knockout stage.
Germany plays Montenegro (noon on ESPN+) in the Round of 16 on Saturday in Berlin. The winner will play either Greece, led by two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, or the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals. The final of the tournament is scheduled for September 18.
Here are some takeaways from Wagner’s play before Saturday’s game:
Scoring opportunities on the ball
During his debut season with the Magic, Wagner showed he could handle more responsibilities as a ball player. The same thing happened with Germany.
Wagner, 21, is not tasked with being the team’s primary creator or playmaker. It was Dennis Schroeder’s role.
But when he looked to create scoring opportunities for himself, Wagner consistently performed in a variety of ways – the pick-and-roll as a ball-handler, isolation as a driver and three-pointers to name a few.
Wagner was especially effective when put in motion scoring situations, especially coming off zip screens – cutting a screen down the line for penalty kicks.
He showed more confidence in his handles, using multiple dribble combinations to create space. Wagner doesn’t need a lot of space to create scoring opportunities, especially on shots. His movements and their timing are idiosyncratic, which can disrupt a defender’s rhythm and give Wagner all the space he needs to create good looks for himself.
Wagner is patient when attacking as a ball holder, reading the defense and his defender to know which move in his arsenal – crossovers, stutter steps, Euro steps – to employ.
At 6-10 with a 7-foot-plus wingspan, Wagner has the size to get around defenders even if they’re in front of him. There were several times when he took advantage of his length by fully extending his arms around or under his defender for finishes around the rim. He was efficient with his floater against drop protection, an area where he also thrived as a rookie.
Wagner was more inclined to let it fly from beyond the arc with Germany — especially off the dribble, a good counter against drop defenses — taking 5.95 3s per 36 minutes in EuroBasket compared to 4 in his first season in Orlando. FIBA’s 3-point line may be closer to the basket than the NBA’s, but Wagner is several steps behind the arc on many of his 3-pointers.
He’s even mixed in quite a few mid-range jumpers, a shot he didn’t get to make much of in 2021-22. He made just 26 long shots from mid-range last season, which was 3 percent of his field goal attempts, according to Cleaning The Glass, which makes 8. Becoming more comfortable with this shot will give Wagner another tool in his “bag” when the defense collapses. — total rim removal coverage.
With Schröder being the leading creator and Germany having multiple guards holding the ball, Wagner’s offensive role is similar to Magic’s. He flourished as a director and sharpshooter during his rookie season, and that continued in Germany.
Wagner has a good feel for timing his shots, waiting for the paint to open up and his defender to lose track of him when he turns his head.
He is quick and decisive with his cuts, leaving defenders little time to recover.
Germany relied on small-ball formations during crucial moments of the matches. Wagner makes these lineups work because of the space he creates when he’s in the corner as a shooter.
He made 43.9% (29 of 66) of his corner 3s in 2021-22 and 37.6% of his 3s (62 of 165) off the dribble. Both are good to excellent grades.
Wagner fits into a variety of offensive systems and schemes because of his versatility. Like the Magic last season, Germany relying on Wagner’s plug-and-play skills benefited.
Wagner has primarily guard players whose offensive responsibilities are spread out on the floor in the corner, leaving him opportunities to showcase his advanced skills as an off-ball defender.
He was an advanced rookie defender because he knows where to be on the floor, stays ready to sink into the paint or pop out to the perimeter, and covers ground well off the ball.
Wagner’s block (0.7%) and steal (1.2%) percentages may be on the low end for a bigger forward, but he knows how to disrupt a game, even if it doesn’t show in the traditional box score .
He assists the helper well and keeps his arms out to shut down passing lanes. Wagner also makes game-changing play-worthy plays on defense.
On the ball, Wagner is Germany’s best defender against bigger wings. He was the best match against Luka Doncic in their only loss to Slovenia on Tuesday, although Germany switched most of the ball screens involving Doncic to keep a defender in front of him.
Wagner’s time defending Doncic was also limited after he got into foul trouble.
He knows how to take the ball out of the hands of the players and take the whole ball, but still sometimes fouls are called.
Wagner looks noticeably stronger compared to how he finished his rookie season, helping him hold his own defensively after getting hit. He does a good job of forcing defenders to help.
Wagner has shown he can handle smaller players, even though the level of guard play in EuroBasket is not at the same level as in the NBA on a game-by-game basis.
Even when smaller guards create space against him, Wagner uses his size and length well to cover the court and contest their shots. Wagner guarding smaller players could open up bigger lineups for the Magic, who have several versatile and bigger forwards who can share the floor.
Areas of improvement
Finishing the edge
Like many rookies, finishing in traffic was a struggle for Wagner.
He does well getting to the rim, but can struggle when he’s there. Wagner made 60 percent of his shots within 4 feet of the basket last season, a below-average mark for forwards, according to Cleaning The Glass.
Efficiency at the rim is critical for any player looking to make strides in their development, especially for ball-handling wings.
It can be easier for defenders to compete and disrupt his shots at the rim because he doesn’t consistently create significant space on his shots.
Wagner is bigger and stronger than he was, but not to the point where he knocks bigger defenses out of their spots.
He admitted getting faster, stronger and handling contact better are areas he wants to work on during the offseason. While it is obvious that he has made improvements in these areas, more can be done.
If there’s one defensive area where Wagner can improve, it’s navigating around screens.
This can usually be difficult for larger wings because they are a bigger target.
He’s strong enough for a good screen to keep him out of his way and big enough to continue to contest a shot after being hit by a good screen. But that bit of space can be the difference between a good shot and a bad shot.
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Price at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.