Former Michigan basketball standout Franz Wagner is about to see his dream of being drafted to the NBA realized.
Wagner is viewed as a future lottery (top-14) pick in the first round, with Bleacher Report draft analyst Jonathan Wasserman projecting him to be off the board at No. 9 to the Sacramento Kings in his latest post-NBA Finals mock draft.
At 19 years old, Wagner averaged 12.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and three assists per game last season, while shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from beyond the three-point arc. He also ranked third in the country with a defensive box plus/minus rating of 6.1, and averaged 1.3 steals and one block per outing, showing he also shines on the defensive end of the floor.
For Wasserman, it was a no-brainer placing Wagner at ninth overall.
“Scouts I’ve talked to have come to the consensus that he’s a lottery pick,” Wasserman told TheWolverine.com recently. “And I think that he is just one of the easiest prospects to picture fitting because everyone talks about his versatility — that’s his signature strength and what his identity will be built around.
“He has the classic shoot-dribble-pass skill set for a 6-foot-9 combo forward. You can plug him into really any situation at multiple positions, and then everything kind of gets elevated by the fact that he’s a very good defender and a versatile defender who can make plays around the basket and move his feet away from it.”
That versatility doesn’t just allow Wagner to play different positions and guard multiple spots — it gives him options when he has the ball, and defenders have to prepare for all scenarios.
«You combine his positional height and ability to work off the dribble — and he’s got a high basketball I.Q. He just has a good feel for making reads, and he’s unselfish,» Wasserman said. «He shows a willingness and sometimes it looks like he’s — I don’t want to say ‘assist-hunting’ — but he’s out there looking to get the ball to his teammates. And again, with that type of size, based on who’s guarding him, it’s tough to disrupt his passing lanes and disrupt his vision.
«He can deliver all those passes, and he just knows which ones to make. He’s not a point wing or anything, but I think in today’s NBA — 10 years ago, it was like a big desire to have stretch forwards, stretch fours. And then over the past few years, now you want them to be stretch fours who are also playmaking fours, and I think especially if he grew a couple inches, and at 19 — it looks like he has a body that can continue to fill out — if he can be a playmaking four, which signs indicate that he can and will be, I think that boosts his value another notch as well.»
Wasserman’s player comparison for Wagner is Los Angeles Clippers win Nicolas Batum, who was drafted in the first round pick by the Houston Rockets back in 2008 and was a key contributor with his current team even in his 13th year in the league.
“He has the chance to be an elite role player,” Wasserman said, noting that Batum has been just that over the course of his career. “His value to his team is going to be very high, and so a ‘star role player’ would kind of be the label I would give him in terms of ceiling.
«Again, he may not have superstar potential, but when you take into account how well-rounded he is, the boxes he checks, his fit and the fact that he’s still 19 and has more experience than any of these guys coming out of the draft, he’s just a very safe pick.
«I can’t get myself to picture a regular All-Star type player. But at 6-10, in the mid- to late-lottery range, he’s Batum in every way. You really forget how good Batum was back in the day. He has the chance to be an elite role player, a star role player. Not Draymond Green, but that type of guy who is super valuable to his team, where he makes a ton of money doing it because of how valuable he is to his particular team, but he may not average 20 points a game ever.»
• Talk about this article inside The Fort
• Watch our videos and subscribe to our YouTube channel
• Listen and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes
• Learn more about our print and digital publication, The Wolverine
• Sign up for our daily newsletter and breaking news alerts
• Like us on Facebook