If you are a fan of the Orlando Magic, then you have surely been watching the EuroBasket tournament with keen interest. With plenty of NBA talent on display, the level of competition is high, and Franz Wagner has been among the best performers at the event taking place in his native Germany so far.
Wagner will be entering his second season with the Orlando Magic next month and is already viewed as an important piece of the organization’s future. Although recent first overall pick Paolo Banchero may become the face of the franchise, having Wagner as his co-star would go a long way to solidifying the core of this Orlando Magic group for years to come.
Franz Wagner’s sensational EuroBasket performances are really encouraging but will it help the Orlando Magic?
On the surface, there is no reason why this shouldn’t be the case. Wagner was instrumental in helping Germany win their first three games, averaging 16.2 points in the process. To date, he has shot 50% from deep and was a driving force in his team’s double-overtime victory over a physical Lithuania team in their pool game.
In that one, and in his performance in their next game versus Luka Doncic’s Slovenia, things didn’t always go that well for him. He finished with eight points, but we also have to remember that, outside of Schroder and Daniel Theis, Wagner doesn’t have any NBA-level help.
But Wagner is being entrusted as his country’s main offensive weapon at such a young age. Any time you are garnering praise from a legend such as Dirk Nowitzki, as Wagner recently was, then you know you are doing something right. Per Sports Illustrated;
"“He has a great all-around game. He can shoot, for a big guy he handles P&Rs, he reads situations. He’s a tough competitor. He’s faster and more athletic than he looks. I think we’re all very excited about his future. Not only German basketball, but fans in Orlando.”"
He’s only 21, so all of this can only be seen as a positive. As Nowitzki mentioned, Wagner is more athletic than he looks, has no problem with the physical side of the game, and, as we saw in his rookie season in Orlando, has an ability to sometimes create something out of nothing and show that creative spark that few players truly possess.
All of that is well and good, but Magic fans should also proceed with caution. For years, former player Evan Fournier was seen as the creative focal point of a team that was sorely lacking in that department. They had no wing player who could create for themselves and for their teammates, and sometimes Fournier was exactly that.
However, he was inconsistent and, in many ways, came to personify that era of Magic basketball. Good enough to win a few games, but not great enough to make a deep postseason run. Yet every time Fournier played for his native France in international competition, he would look like one of the best players in the world. It fooled this writer more than once.
Is there anything standing in the way of Wagner becoming the next Fournier in that regard? Well, he is already better than Fournier was at that age, and Germany is far from a basketball powerhouse. To be able to put on performances as he has, to guide his country to the last 16, and be put on lists with guys like Doncic and Giannis Antetokounmpo, shows that Wagner is already much better positioned to help the Magic in ways Fournier never could.
Unlike Fournier, Wagner will have a lot more help once he gets back to the NBA as well. Banchero is going to be really good, while both Cole Anthony and Markelle Fultz are the kinds of guards he will thrive playing next to. We have seen small flashes of his defensive potential during EuroBasket play, and it will be interesting to see how he develops on that end of the court.
So yes, despite only playing five games and having three standout performances and two more average ones, we can already safely say that Franz Wagner’s EuroBasket performances are for real.
Going back to a Magic team that will grow with him and where he doesn’t have to be the main star, unlike with Germany, makes life even easier for both player and team. Overall, the best may be yet to come for Wagner in EuroBasket, and it is certainly yet to come for the Magic.