Franz Wagner is a Sophomore wing who currently plays for the University of Michigan. The native of Germany spent his younger years playing professionally with ALBA Berlin’s junior and senior teams, while also suiting up for his youth national team in FIBA competition. Franz decided to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, current Washington Wizard Moritz Wagner, by committing to the University of Michigan.
After a strong Freshman year, Franz has taken a major step forward. He’s one of only three High Major players in college basketball with Offensive and Defensive BPMs both greater than 5. Franz has improved physically too, growing from 6’8” to 6’9” and adding 15 lbs. to his frame.
The only Freshman/Sophomores since '08 with O and D BPM both greater than 5:
Otto Porter Jr.
Karl-Anthony Towns https://t.co/rNx3jqV5N5
— Will Morris (@w_a_morris) February 3, 2021
- 220 lbs.
- Most recent wingspan measurement is from 2017 Jordan Brand Classic, where he measured in at 6’5” with a 6’8” wingspan. Given that he’s grown substantially since then, it’s probably reasonable to assume his wingspan is in the realm of 7’0″.
|Per Game||Per 100 Possessions|
|Field Goal Attempts||8.9||17.4|
|Free Throw Attempts||2.5 (.280 FTr)||4.9|
|Steals||1.4 (2.8 STL%)||2.8|
|Blocks||1.2 (4.1 BLK%)||2.4|
(via sports reference)
% of FGM Unassisted: 61.3%
37.1% Unassisted Rim
21% Unassisted Mid-Range
19.4% Assisted Rim
19.4% Assisted Threes
3.2% Unassisted Threes
0% Assisted Mid-Range
In his pre-college years, Wagner’s main appeal was his jumper. Wagner shot 38.4% from three on 125 attempts as a 17-year-old. He had a .472 3-point attempt rate and shot an absurd 89.2% from the foul line. So, it was a tad bit surprising when Wagner shot 31.1% from three as a freshman at Michigan.
He still took 9.2 threes per 100 possessions and drilled over 80% of his free throws last year, but his shots did not fall at the same rate that they did in Germany. Through 14 games this season, Wagner is only shooting 31.8% from range with a lower attempt rate and similar free throw efficiency.
When looking at his mechanics at ALBA, the main difference I spot is the dip. Notice how in the shot below, Wagner barely needs to bring the ball down before releasing it. Compare that with his current shooting motion and the dip is significantly more elongated.
Franz’s consistency needs to improve, and he probably isn’t the off-ball shooting specialist that many once imagined, but for a guy with question marks surrounding his jumper, this is one of the safer bets in a while. He’s young, has repeatable mechanics, a history of shooting proficiency, soft touch on shots inside the arc and from the foul line, and most importantly, the willingness to take a lot of threes. Furthermore, Wagner’s percentages this year could be skewed by only playing 14 games. If just two of his misses were makes, Wagner’s percentage from range would be a much more appealing 36.4%.
These off-the-bounce makes are really encouraging, especially that killer side-step three.
Aside from his outside jumper, Franz has made drastic offensive improvements in recent years, particularly as an on-ball player. Last season, 61.1% of his made field goals were assisted, whereas this year that number has dropped to 38.7%. A shot diet that once consisted mainly of spot-up threes and rim attacks of the catch is now incredibly more diverse.
Franz has added a real in-between game, more than quintupling his mark on unassisted long 2’s per 40 minutes from a year ago. He looks more comfortable on floaters and two dribble pull-ups when attacking off the catch, and he loves to deploy a new-found post-fade against smaller defenders.
Franz Wagner has improved his in-between game so much since year 1. Last season, Wagner averaged .241 mid-range makes/40 minutes. This year, he's more than quintupled that with 1.26. Franz looks really comfortable on pull-up jumpers, floaters, and has added a post-fade. pic.twitter.com/G8GupUFPfH
— Will Morris (@w_a_morris) February 5, 2021
Franz’s downhill creation is trending in the right direction as well, though his gains have been humbler. His free throw rate has jumped from 21.6% to 28%, and his unassisted rim-make rate has seen a slight uptick from 32.7% to 37.1%. He isn’t going to toast anyone in isolation, but when attacking closeouts or utilizing ball-screens, Franz uses variations in stride length and pace to get to the cup.
Once at the rim, his combination of strength and touch allows him to finish at an uber-efficient 70% clip. As excellent as his finishing has been, I still like to see him draw contact and generate more free throw opportunities rather than settling for short runners.
Franz probably doesn’t have a tight enough handle to be a volume pick-and-roll creator at this stage in his development, and when teams throw traps his way, he can struggle to keep his dribble alive under pressure. Michigan does a nice job utilizing Wagner’s creation skills on second-side pick and rolls and double screen actions. This allows his downhill attacking to be utilized without forcing him to create advantages out of thin air.
This is a play that has worked well too. Franz catches the ball off a pin-down set by Hunter Dickinson and proceeds to drive inside while Dickinson seals off his man.
Wagner has also taken massive strides as a passer, upping his assist rate from 5.9% to 18% while lowering his turnover rate from 15% to 11.1%. He does an excellent job picking out cutters from the top of the key and finding the roller or surrounding shooters in ball-screen situations. Even on simple ball reversals and post-entry passes, Wagner displays decisiveness that will translate to any NBA offense.
Franz has really popped as a passer this year, displaying the ability to pick out cutters, execute drive-and-kicks, find shooters with his back to the basket, and hit Hunter Dickinson in PnR. His decisiveness on ball reversals and entry passes will translate to any offense. pic.twitter.com/VwrXK1BMUS
— Will Morris (@w_a_morris) February 6, 2021
One more note before we move onto the defense: Franz is a dang good cutter. When defenders fall asleep, he’s quick to pounce and give himself easy scoring opportunities.
Wagner was a very good defensive player as a Freshman, but this year he’s taken it to a whole new level. Michigan ranks 7th in the country in KenPom’s Adjusted Defensive Efficiency Rating and Wagner is a big reason why. He leads his team in Defensive Rating, Defensive Box Plus-Minus, and steals while ranking second in blocks.
Franz stands out most off-the-ball, where Big Ten teams have had no answers for his omnipresence. Beat a Michigan defender off the dribble? Doesn’t matter because Franz is always lurking.
Think the pocket pass is there? Nope, Franz can extend to reject shots at the rim. He isn’t the world’s most explosive vertical athlete, but he does look quicker off the ground than he did last year. These athletic improvements combined with his length and positioning make Wagner an excellent weak-side rim-protector.
Miller Kopp’s reaction when he gets Hunter Dickinson on an island is “woo-hoo! Time to feast!” But as he releases the ball, Franz steps up and uses his length to swat his attempt.
Franz’s technique on closeouts is almost always perfect. Notice the short, choppy steps to slow down his momentum.
Wagner can also provide value as an off-ball chaser, staying glued to cutters and movement shooters.
He’s been very active on stunts and digs, using his tools to muck up lanes to the basket from the nail. At times, however, he gets a little bit over-ambitious and loses track of his man.
Wagner’s on-ball defense has almost been equally as fantastic. At the college level he’s been especially adept at defending slashers, using his massive frame to engulf opposing players. He uses his quick hands and long arms to poke the ball from handlers and swat their shot attempts. Franz might not have the lateral agility to defend some of the shiftier players in the NBA, but I think we can reasonably expect him to man-guard most 2s, 3s, and 4s.
We’ve made it this far without even talking about Franz’s age. Born in August of 2001, Wagner is younger than many noteworthy one-and-done prospects, including Jalen Suggs, Evan Mobley, and Sharife Cooper.
Here are the ages of a few current NBA players at the beginning of their Freshman seasons:
|Name||Fr. Year Age|
|Jaren Jackson Jr.||18.13|
*The average age of a top 30 Prospect in 247’s 2021 rankings is ~18.94.
Many multi-year college players who found success in the pros were young for their class. James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, and plenty of others were born significantly later than their classmates. Obviously, it’s unreasonable to say youth automatically yields stars, but having his kind of impact while being underage certainly bodes well for Wagner.
Here’s a list of 6’6”+ wings to begin a season under 20 years old since 2010 with:
- Offensive and Defensive BPM’s both greater than 2
- Block and Steal rates both greater than 1.5% and 2%
- 5 or more dunks
- 3P% over 25%, 3PA/100 possessions over 4, FT% over 70%, and FG% over 40% on non-dunk 2-pointers
*Kaleb Wesson and Dedric Lawson also qualify but are classified as Bigs rather than Wings.
|Otto Porter Jr.||19.41||So.||6’8″||7’1″||205||13.1||8||5.1|
This search was designed to find two-way young wings that meet a few shooting and athleticism thresholds. It isn’t a perfect search, and there are plenty of stylistic differences amongst these players, but the point remains: finding young two-way wings is difficult. We have just eighteen players (seventeen if we consider that Franz has hit these marks twice) in the last 12 years.
Given their positional scarcity, the NBA values the heck out of these guys. Excluding Cade and the two Franz seasons, everyone here was drafted in the first round, with nine being selected in the lottery.
I’d even argue that the league should value these players more: Hayward and Paul George were both taken in the back half of the lottery, Kawhi fell to 15th, and we really shouldn’t have let San Antonio get their hands on Devin Vassell. My main point is that when you draft a young, genuinely impactful two-way wing on a positive developmental trajectory, you’re making an upside play.
With wings like Doug McDermott and Andre Roberson, you’re hoping that they develop into viable defensive or offensive players, but with someone who is already able to provide value on both ends, you’re hoping that they develop into something more.
I think at his offensive ceiling, Wagner can be a second-side creator capable of scoring from three-levels off the dribble on fairly high usage. To reach these heights, he’ll need to start taking more self-created threes, and ideally, his free throw rate will also take another jump. If he doesn’t reach this lofty outcome, we have a 6’9” wing with plus team-defense, passing, cutting, and likely shooting for his archetype: someone who can slide in seamlessly alongside any combination of guards and wings. Consider all these things, and Franz as a pick in the single digits starts to make sense.
Our NBA Draft Zone page is starting to fill up quickly, with plenty of more on the way including a Romeo Weems breakdown by a special guest writer coming tomorrow *insert eye emoji* stay tuned!
Categories: NBA Draft