There’s lots to like concerning the younger Orlando Magic, even whereas they’ve but to mesh into one thing resembling a contending crew within the Jap Convention.
Amid each rebuilding crew that’s loaded with promise — the Detroit Pistons, the Houston Rockets, and the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder being the extra distinguished ones — the Magic stand out due to how funky their roster constructing has been.
And after I seek advice from funky, I imply that in a largely constructive approach.
The Toronto Raptors’ penchant for amassing tall and prolonged wings like no different have garnered their roster the nickname “Mission 6’9.” The Magic could have one-upped them in that division by unleashing “Mission 6’10” – seven of their 17 roster spots (two-ways included) are occupied by gamers 6’10 or taller.
The one with the very best ceiling is Paolo Banchero, whose potential as a flexible scorer with playmaking chops is aware of no bounds. Wendell Carter Jr. has grow to be a sturdy and reliable heart. Accidents have hampered Jonathan Isaac’s availability, however his potential as a disruptive defensive pressure could also be too good to go up on. Bol Bol has reworked himself from a 7’2 novelty to a bona-fide productive rotation participant.
After which, there’s Franz Wagner.
This present day of flash and pizazz, those who can fly excessive for dunks, beat defenders off the dribble with eye-popping handles, and unleash seemingly inhuman feats are sometimes those who draw consideration towards the tv units and put the butts within the seats. There’s no downside with that type of stardom — in spite of everything, the NBA is an leisure product, and whoever produces probably the most leisure deserves all of the reward and a focus.
Not like his different fellow 6’10-plus behemoths, Wagner doesn’t possess the flashiest arsenal of strikes. He received’t wow anybody with outlier athleticism; he doesn’t have the type of fast-twitch burst that a few of his friends possess.
However there’s one thing concerning the easy issues that talk to basketball junkies’ sensibilities. A deal with that isn’t inundated with “tween-hesi” kind of strikes, however one which completes its goal of getting you to your most popular spots. A ending bundle that isn’t circus-like in nature, however versatile sufficient to finish its goal of placing the ball within the hoop. The imaginative and prescient and passing chops that appear typical and rote however finishing their goal of discovering the open man and creating high quality seems to be.
The frequent phrase between all the above is “goal” — which Wagner is slowly beginning to uncover in his second 12 months. However what precisely is that goal?
Wagner being accountable for half-court possessions doesn’t hit the identical aesthetic notes as it might when a Luka Dončić or Trae Younger has the ball in his arms. His drives and finishes aren’t as explosive as Ja Morant’s. His capturing audacity isn’t on the similar degree of Steph Curry or Damian Lillard.
Take observe that all the above listed are level guards — high-usage ball handlers who command nearly all of their groups’ possessions. Wagner instructions the second-highest utilization on the Magic, with solely Banchero being increased. Wagner’s 26.0% utilization charge is within the 86th percentile amongst all wings, per Cleansing the Glass; it’s additionally a five-percent improve from his mark final season.
A major a part of that uptick in utilization has been the Magic’s elevated belief in Wagner as a ball handler and resolution maker — to the purpose the place he’s seen minutes at level guard, albeit in solely 4 p.c of the Magic’s complete possessions this season. However even with the small period of time he has seen at level, Wagner has proven why he’s changing into such a reliable playmaker and scorer with the rock in his arms.
He’s creating the processing chops to resolve in actual time to create his personal shot if the chance for self-creation is there:
Wagner methodically directs his man towards the re-screen, finally drawing out a change onto Myles Turner, who doesn’t appear taken with defending out on the perimeter. Wagner takes benefit by stepping again for a pull-up three.
Probably the most hanging side of the possession above: persistence. Wagner takes his time, isn’t rushed, and waits for a good scenario (late change) earlier than pulling up.
Pull-up threes haven’t been an space of power for Wagner throughout his younger profession. He’s taking extra of them this season (round 4 extra per recreation) however is capturing at a slightly worse clip (from 32.4% to 30.8%). That quantity ought to normalize to no less than league-average marks, on condition that his profession free-throw-shooting proportion (86.3%) is motive sufficient to be bullish.
A dip in his three-point-shooting accuracy has been countered by a rise in his frequency of pictures on the rim — from 43% final season to 48% this season. He’s additionally ending at the next charge (60% to 66%), and it’s not laborious to see why he’s had a lot success with paint touches, attending to the rim, and changing.
The peak and size — Wagner has a 7-foot wingspan — helps in getting the ball over the tall bushes. Once more, he’s not probably the most athletic leaper, nor does he possess velocity and burst that a few of his high-profile friends on the wing place possess. However what he does have is craft, footwork, and ambidextrous contact.
Amongst 79 gamers with a minimal 15 video games performed and who common no less than half-hour, Wagner’s 13.7 drives per recreation is tenth within the league. He’s attending to the rim and touching the paint virtually at will. This can be a degree of benefit creation that not a variety of second-year gamers have reached — and Wagner is nicely conscious of that reality.
He’s forcing defenses to break down, pinch in, and ship extra assist to stifle his drives. Even when he doesn’t contact the paint, his capacity to make the superior learn within the pick-and-roll — akin to a quarterback going via his progressions — has been a revelation.
When many others would attempt to thread the go to the curler within the possession above, Wagner takes the 200 IQ route by anticipating the place the assistance will come from. By understanding the essential rules of assist protection — that the weak-side low man would cheat off the nook to “tag” the curler — Wagner punishes a protection for just about making the proper play.
It’s not simply an remoted flash — Wagner has been persistently making probably the most out of his paint touches and improved ground mapping to spray the court docket with high quality passes:
Wagner’s offensive output has elevated throughout the board. He’s scoring at the next charge (from 17.9 factors per 75 possessions final season to twenty.9 factors per 75 possessions this season) on markedly improved effectivity (55.9 TS% to 58.2 TS%).
But it surely’s his playmaking metrics which have intrigued: from 3.5 assists per 75 possessions final season to 4.8 assists per 75 possessions this 12 months, with a big improve in help charge — from 15.1% to 21.1% (ninety fifth percentile amongst wings, per Cleansing the Glass).
I’m curious to see if Wagner’s growth right into a digital 6’10 level ahead could have a big macro impact on this Magic crew. They’re twenty first in offense and are at the moment useless final in help charge. Even with the quantity of offensive potential they at the moment possess, it has but to translate into precise effectivity.
Wagner, nevertheless, has been considered one of their uncommon offensive beacons. He’s raring to make a leap, and the feats he has proven thus far — taking part in the purpose to be able to make some extent — point out that it could come sooner somewhat than later.