Analyzing Magic forward Franz Wagner’s play with Germany in EuroBasket – The Denver Post



On an individual and team level, Orlando Magic forward Franz Wagner’s time with the German men’s national basketball team during EuroBasket 2022 has been successful.

Individually, Wagner has shined. 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 has provided glimpses as to why German basketball magazine “BASKET” referred to him as the “Face of the New Generation.” The highlight of his tournament play has been his 32-point, 8-rebound performance in a double-overtime win over Lithuania on Sept. 4.

As a team, Germany performed better in the group-stage games than most expected, going 4-1 in Group B to qualify for the 16-team single-elimination 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 tournament final is scheduled for Sept. 18.

Here are takeaways of Wagner’s play ahead of Saturday’s matchup:

The positives

On-ball scoring chances

Throughout his rookie season with the Magic, Wagner showed he could handle more responsibilities as a ballhandler. The same has been the case with Germany.

Wagner, 21, isn’t being tasked with being the team’s primary creator or playmaker. That’s been Dennis Schröder’s role.

But when looked upon to create scoring opportunities for himself, Wagner consistently delivered in a variety of ways — pick-and-roll as the ballhandler, in isolation as a driver and pull-up 3s, to name a few.

Wagner has been particularly efficient when put in situations to score off movement, especially coming off zipper screens — a cut off a down screen up the free throw line.

He’s shown greater confidence in his handles, using multiple dribble combinations to create space. Wagner doesn’t need a lot of room to create scoring opportunities, especially on drives. His movements and timing of them are idiosyncratic, which can throw off 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 ballhandler, reading the defense and his defender to figure out which move in his arsenal — crossovers, stutter steps, Euro steps — to deploy.

At 6-10 with a 7-foot-plus wingspan, Wagner has the size to finish around defenders even if they’re in front of him. There have been multiple times he took advantage of his length by fully extending his arms around or underneath his defender for finishes around the rim. He’s been efficient with his floater against drop defenses, an area he also thrived in as a rookie.

Wagner has been more willing 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. The FIBA 3-point line may be closer to the basket than the NBA’s, but Wagner has been multiple steps behind the arc for many of his 3s.

He’s even mixed in a fair amount of pull-up midrange jumpers, a shot he didn’t take much in 2021-22. He took just 26 long midrange shots last season, which was 3% of his field goal attempts according to Cleaning The Glass, making 8. Becoming more comfortable with this shot will give Wagner another tool in his “bag” when defenses are in a drop — a common coverage to take away the rim.

Cutting/spacing

With Schröder being the lead creator and Germany having multiple ballhandling guards, Wagner’s offensive role has been similar to his one with the Magic. He thrived as a cutter and spot-up shooter during his rookie season and that’s continued with Germany.

Wagner has a good sense of timing on his cuts, waiting for the paint to open up and for his defender to lose track of him when turning their head.

He’s quick and decisive with his cuts, leaving defenders little time to recover.

Germany has leaned on small-ball lineups during crucial moments in games. Wagner makes those lineups work because of the space he creates when stationed in the corner as a shooter.

He made 43.9% (29 of 66) of his corners 3 in 2021-22 and 37.6% of his 3s (62 of 165) in which he shot without taking a dribble. Both are good-to-great marks.

Wagner fits into a variety of offensive systems and schemes because of his versatility. Like the Magic did last season, Germany leaning on Wagner’s plug-and-play skills has been beneficial.

Defense

Wagner mainly has guarded players whose offensive responsibilities are spacing the floor in the corner, leaving him with opportunities to show 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 jump out to the perimeter and covers ground well away from the ball.

Wagner’s block (0.7%) and steal (1.2%) percentages may be on the lower end for a bigger forward but he knows how to disrupt plays even if it doesn’t show up in a traditional box score.

He does well assisting the helper and keeps his arms spread out to close off passing lanes. Wagner also makes game-changing highlight-worthy defensive plays.

On the ball, Wagner has been Germany’s best defender against bigger wings. He was the best matchup against Luka Dončić in their lone loss to Slovenia on Tuesday, though Germany switched most of the on-ball screens involving Dončić to keep a defender in front of him.

Wagner’s time defending Dončić was also limited once he got into foul trouble.

He knows how to swipe the ball out of players’ hands and get all ball but sometimes fouls are called anyway.

Wagner looks noticeably stronger compared to how he ended his rookie season, helping him hold his ground defensively after taking bumps. He does a good job of forcing defenders into help.

Wagner has shown he can hold his own against smaller ballhandlers, albeit with the level of guard play in EuroBasket not being at the same level as the NBA on a game-to-game basis.

Even when smaller guards create space against him, Wagner uses his size and length well to cover ground and contest their shots. Wagner guarding smaller players could open up bigger lineups for the Magic, who have several versatile and bigger forwards who could share the floor.

Areas of improvement

Finishing at rim

Like many rookies, finishing under traffic was an area of difficulty for Wagner.

He does well with getting to the rim but can struggle once he’s there. Wagner made 60% 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 wings who handle the ball.

It can be easier for defenders to contest and disrupt his shots at the rim because he doesn’t consistently create a significant amount of space on his drives.

Wagner is bigger and stronger than he was, but not to the point he’s bumping bigger defenses off their spots.

He admitted getting quicker, stronger and handling contact better were areas he wanted to work on during the offseason. While it’s evident he’s made improvements in these areas, more can be made.

Screen navigation

If there’s one defensive area Wagner can improve at, it’s navigating around screens.

This generally can be difficult for bigger wings because they’re a bigger target.

He’s strong enough for a good screen to not throw him off his path and big enough to still contest a shot after getting hit by a good screen. But that sliver of space can be the difference between a good and bad shot allowed.

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Price at khprice@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.

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