‘You have to have a player like that’ – The Denver Post


Throughout Moe Wagner’s career, with most of his playing time coming with the Orlando Magic over the last 2½ seasons, he’s become synonymous with two things: energy and irritating opposing players.

Wagner makes the plays not every player will — diving for loose balls, putting his body on the line for charges or making hustle plays. He also finds ways to get under opposing players’ skin, regardless of intention.

An example of this from the Magic’s 117-109 Friday win over the Celtics at TD Garden was the bumping that led to Al Horford elbowing Wagner in the midsection early in the third quarter, with Horford being ejected because he was assessed a Flagrant Foul Penalty 2.

“He plays with an unlimited amount of energy and he’s just out there yelling, getting on the ground, frustrating the other team — just all the little things you have to have,” Paolo Banchero said of Wagner. “You have to have a player like that who’s bringing that energy and has that intensity no matter what.”

Added coach Jamahl Mosley: “He provides a level of energy that’s contagious. It gets guys going.”

But Wagner also brings smart basketball plays and production to the Magic, which sometimes can be overshadowed by the energy and irritating opponents.

It’s why he’s averaged 14.9 points (54.9% shooting — 63.1% on 7.1 2s, 36.1% on 3.1 3s), 7.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 28.8 minutes in the last eight games as a starter.

“He brings a little bit of everything, honestly,” Banchero said. “He’s a lot more skilled than I think people realize. He’s a super smart player. Him and his brother [Franz Wagner] are very smart and cerebral. They have very good awareness of what’s going on in the game. Not just what they’re doing, what their man is doing, they know what’s going on with your man and what they see you doing. They’re just very aware. Having him on the court, it’s a big help.

“He never changes. He’s the same every day. He’s a huge part of what we’re doing right now.”

Wagner is a reliable off-ball scorer, making quick timely cuts into open space to generate his own offense.

He scores 1.41 points per cut — in the 68th percentile among all players — a play type that accounts for 20.3% of his offensive usage. Although he’s shooting a career-low 27.5% on 3s for the season and 31.7% for his NBA career, he still spaces the floor since opponents honor him as a threat from beyond the arc.

Wagner’s also a good driver, using spin moves, patient timing to attack angles, good footwork and his strength to get to the basket. He’s shooting 61.5% on 1.1 shots coming off his 1.7 drives per game. He also shot 61.1% on drives last season and 62.1% during the 2019-20 season.

His 5 screen assists per 36 minutes is tied for 2nd on the team alongside Mo Bamba behind Wendell Carter Jr. (5.9) and is tied for 17th in the league among all players who’ve played in at least 12 games. He’s active on the offensive glass, averaging 2.1 offensive rebounds, tying Carter for the team’s best mark.

“He’s a really smart player,” Franz Wagner said of Moe. “Watches film — I see what he does every day. He’s really consistent with that, the work he puts in, and I think it shows on the court.

“A lot of cuts and screening situations where he gets his teammates open. Knowing how to move off the ball. On defense, knowing when to help, [and] how to help on certain people. You can’t really script that before the game but he makes a lot of those plays.”

Defensively, what Moe Wagner lacks in vertical athleticism at the rim and quickness, he makes up for with anticipation, timing and hustle.

His .5 drawn charges per 36 minutes — tied for sixth across the league — stands out while also highlighting his strength as a positional defender. He calls out other teams’ plays, relaying the message to his teammates and Mosley.

“It’s so incredible to have,” Mosley said. “I don’t think you can put a value system on that. That’s what we want our guys to continue to do. The great about the NBA now is that no one is really running anything different. It’s recognition of our sets that are similar to their sets so our guys know how to sit down and guard those situations.”

Moe Wagner’s 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting to go with 8 rebounds in Friday’s win was a season-high but the production is becoming consistent.

He’s scored in double figures in five of the last six games and has averaged 15.8 points and 6.6 rebounds during the Magic’s five-game win streak.

“We were talking about it in the locker room: it’s by committee,” he said. “One day it’s [one] guy, another [day] it’s another guy. That’s just how it works. I think we’re embracing that team spirit. Everybody is able to deliver and today, I had a good night. Sunday, it’ll be someone else.”

The Magic will play the Celtics again at 3 p.m. Sunday at TD Garden to conclude the “baseball-style” series — when two teams play consecutive games at the same venue with no travel in between.

They’ll play two more: in Philadelphia (Jan. 30 and Feb. 1) and vs. Cleveland in Orlando (April 4 and 6).

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



Source link