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Moritz Wagner – 6’11”, Center, University of Michigan, 21 years old
Berlin native Moritz Wagner is coming off a pretty good season with the Michigan Wolverines. In the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, Wagner helped lead the Wolverines to the national title game, where they lost to the Villanova Wildcats. Prior to that, Wagner’s stellar performance helped the Wolverines reach the Sweet 16 in 2017.
In his freshman year, minutes were sparse for Wagner. He had season averages of 2.9 points and 1.6 rebounds while limited to only 8.6 minutes a game. He received a lot more playing time in his sophomore year, however, and ended the season with a far better stat line of 12.1 points and 4.2 rebounds in 23.9 minutes of action per game, while also shooting 39.5% from deep, quite impressive for a big man.
Wagner ended his junior year averaging 27.6 minutes per game while contributing 14.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 0.8 assists, and 0.5 blocks. The same season he was awarded Big Ten Tournament MVP and was selected as part of the Second-team All-Big Ten.
At 6’11”, Wagner has potential to be a stretch-4. He has shot over 39% from deep in his sophomore and junior years in Michigan and has been used as an offensive threat against opposing teams because of this ability. For a big man, he also has a good handle and can create shots for himself off the bounce. He has solid floor vision as well and can find teammates for open looks.
Although he is far from being perfect on the defensive end, he has shown a lot of improvement in his last year in college when it comes to rebounding as well as using his height to scare away players attacking the rim. His size alone makes him a threat on both ends of the floor, and together with his shooting ability, he is a combo big.
On the offensive end of the floor, several things are lacking from Wagner. Given his size, he is expected to shoot decently near the rim. However, his overall lack of explosiveness and his relatively short wingspan makes him inconsistent around the basket. His shot selection is also questionable at times, and can potentially affect the flow of his team’s offense.
While he has improved on defense, he still gets into foul trouble a lot, averaging 3.1 fouls in 27.6 minutes of action in his last year in college. He also gets lost on defense, and is unable to guard opposing bigs consistently. He is too slow to defend 4s, while his lack of upper body strength leaves him unable to defend larger 5s on the post. These aspects of his game may prevent him from being a star in the NBA, as playing him can lead to deficiencies on both sides of the floor.
Moritz Wagner is only 21 years old and thus has a few years left to improve his play to become a productive contributor on the NBA level. Sports Illustrated and NBADraft.net have him getting picked early in the second round, at 36 and 35 respectively.
In this part of the draft, teams are not looking for a lot of upsides, but potentially someone who can be an effective role player. A season or two in the G-League won’t hurt him, and we have seen a lot of current NBA players who improved a lot in the minor league and blossomed into solid players on the next level.
While his game has a lot of flaws, his size and ability to space the floor will surely entice one of the 30 NBA teams to use their pick on him.
NBA Player Comparison
A big man with the ability to shoot from distance? A stretch-4, a combo big? One name that immediately comes to mind when these words are uttered is Kevin Love. Love has been a solid star in his career first with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and then beside Lebron in Cleveland. He is not the defensive stopper one might think of, but years of experience have shaped him into a capable defender against opposing bigs. He has remained a consistent shooter, especially from distance, effectively spreading out his team’s offence when he is on the floor.
While Kevin Love may be too high of a ceiling for Moritz Wagner to reach, he may fit onto an NBA roster as a Lauri Markkanen type of player. Entering the draft, Lauri Markkanen also had critics questioning his defensive capabilities, as well as if he would be able to maintain his shooting clip in the NBA. After one year with the Chicago Bulls, Lauri has shown that he can at least hold himself up in the league.
Hard work and willingness to learn will be required of Moritz Wagner if he wants to be successful in the NBA, and being only 21 years old, he has a career ahead to maximize his potential.
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