The Charlotte Hornets own their own first-round pick (11) and are owed second-round picks from the Brooklyn Nets (57) and the Los Angeles Clippers (56). Over the next couple of months, leading up to the 2021 NBA Draft, Swarm & Sting will take a look at prospects hoping to hear their name called on draft night.
Today, we look at Michigan forward Franz Wagner. Wagner is a stout perimeter defender and a high IQ player who could likely be considered as one of the safer players to take in the lottery this year.
The German forward was a day one starter at Michigan the moment he stepped on campus. He featured in 55 games and started all 55. During his recent sophomore season, Wagner averaged 12.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3 assists per game which was good enough to earn him second-team All-Big Ten honors. Wagner was an instrumental piece in leading the Wolverines to a number one seed during the NCAA Tournament and making a run to the Elite Eight.
For me, Wagner’s biggest strength is his impact on the defensive end. Wagner has great length, navigates screens extremely well, is laterally quick, and has a great feeling of the game that allows him to see what’s happening and make winning plays on the defensive end. He averaged 1.4 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. He’s got the potential to be a really good on-ball defender in the NBA and I certainly think he’ll be a great team defender. I’m not sure if he’s athletic enough to guard the opposites team’s best player, but the potential is there.
On offense, Wagner is the ultimate glue guy. He’s a capable three-point shooter, he hit 34.3% of his shots last season on 81 total attempts. He also shot 83.4% from the free-throw line which suggests he should be a capable shooter. For his size he’s a great playmaker, has a good vision of the floor, and has potential as a pick-and-roll playmaker at the next level, I think using him in a short roll with LaMelo Ball would make for some very interesting situations. Wagner also excels as a cutter, gets to the rim effectively, and finishes, I think this is where his success will come early on.
Wagner’s weaknesses are one’s that put him in the tier of players with a high floor but a low ceiling. While he excels as a cutter and is a solid finisher, Wagner doesn’t have the desired explosiveness to allow him to play above the rim. He’s also one-handed when driving, being rather reluctant to not switch and finish with his left which leaves room for some concern as he transitions to the next level.
There also isn’t much potential there as a shot creator, I don’t believe he has the handle and athleticism to create his space to take his game to that next level. For this reason, his upside is questionable, but his strengths should still allow him to be a solid starter in the NBA.
Wagner should be a surefire mid-lottery pick that the Charlotte Hornets should consider at the 11th pick. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if he dropped right outside of the lottery. He’s a safe pick and would be an instrumental glue guy to whichever team took him but his questionable upside leaves us questioning if players with higher upside should go before him.
When it comes to his fit with the Hornets, Wagner would step in and be that bridge player that we so desperately need. I’m not so sure he’s a future starter for the Hornets but he can come in off the bench, be a threat to hit threes, and impact the game on defense.
The 2021 NBA Draft will be held on Thursday, July 29 from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The draft will be televised on ABC (first-round only) and ESPN.