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2021 NBA Draft Prospect Profiles: Franz Wagner

Versatile Playmaker is NBA Ready, but does he fit with the Grizz?

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Louisiana State at Michigan Joshua Bickel-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next month, GBB will be profiling various players the Memphis Grizzlies may target in the 2021 NBA Draft. This year we will be breaking it up in to three sections - five to likely trade up for, five potentially available right around pick #17 where Memphis is slotted to pick, and five that surely will be there or perhaps the Grizzlies could even trade back and still select.

Others potentially available at #17 — Corey Kispert of Gonzaga


  • 6’9”, 220 pounds, (6’8” Wingspan — last measured in 2017 when he was 6’5”), 19 years old, Berlin, Germany
  • Two Seasons at Michigan - 31.2 minutes per game, 12.0 points per game, 46.5% from the field, 32.5% on threes, 83.5% from the free throw line, 6.1 rebounds per game, 2.0 assists per game, 1.3steals per game
  • STATS OF STRENGTH (per Tankathon): Assist/Turnover (2.33), Defensive Box Plus Minus (6.1), Free Throw Percentage (83.5%)
  • STATS TO IMPROVE: Offensive Rebounds(0.8), Points (12.5), Free Throw Attempt Rate(.304)
  • ACCOLADES AND AWARDS: 2020-21 All-Big Ten Second Team (Coaches), 2020-21 All-Big Ten Third Team (Media), 2020-21 AP All-Big Ten Second Team, 2019-20 Big Ten All-Freshman Team
  • CURRENT BIG BOARD PLACEMENTS: 11th overall (Tankathon), 8th overall (The Ringer), 12th Overall (ESPN), 10th Overall (CBS SPORTS), 14th Overall (Bleacher Report), 17th Overall (Sporting News)

In the GBB Draft Roundtable, a group of us were asked the type of player the Grizzlies should target in the draft. I responded with ‘a shooter that can at least play the ‘4.’ Wagner is a guy that could potentially fit that perfectly.

At the end of the 2019-20 season, Wagner made a business decision to return to the University of Michigan for his sophomore season. It looks like it could pay off huge for him as he is projected in many mock drafts to be a lottery pick, but is for sure a first round lock.

During the offseason between his freshman and sophomore season, Wagner grew two inches and put on 15 pounds. It paid off, because Wagner improved in nearly every statistical category for the Wolverines.

I’ll be honest, I watched about 10 or so Michigan games this past year, and Wagner was not a guy who jumped off the screen to me. He was always solid, but I just didn’t understand why he is valued as a lottery pick. But, the more research I did, and how he fits into today’s NBA, I began to understand it more.

But, I still think he is slightly overvalued.

What He Does Well

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Florida State at Michigan Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

There are a lot of things to like with Wagner.

First off is his versatility on defense. As mentioned in the open profile, Wagner’s wingspan was last measured in 2017 when he was four inches shorter than he is now. Odds are, his wingspan now probably measures close to 7 feet.

Because of his size and length, he is able to guard positions ‘2’ through ‘4’. Teams could also pair Wagner up with slower point guards and smaller centers if the situation arises. He does a good job of fighting through screens and keeping with his man, as well as disrupt the passing lanes.

On the offensive end, he can play both on the perimeter and down low. From his freshman to sophomore season, his 3-point percentage increased from 31% to 34%. He’s best from the corner, as well as catch-and-shoot. And back to his size — he’s very good at noticing a mismatch down low and taking advantage.

His ball-handling skills and court vision are also above average for guys his size. He can play point and bring the ball up if needed, keeps his head up at all times, which keeps his options open at all times. Wagner’s European flair to his offense can help him get to the cup at times as well.

While his offensive rating (121.5) and defensive rating (92.1) are through the roof, I think the biggest plus in Wagner’s game is his Basketball IQ. He always seems to know where to be on the floor at all times and very rarely makes mistakes or takes a bad shot. Not only does he know where he needs to be, but also knows where the other 9 guys are on the floor most of the time as well. That comes in handy in knowing when to switch on defense or when to make the timely pass on offense.

Where He Can Improve

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Wagner improved his perimeter shooting last season, but there is still plenty of work to be done. The most noticeable thing is his very slow and deliberate release. When shooting from three, Wagner sometimes brings the ball down, almost to his hip before he releases. It causes his shot to be flat, and it’s also something opposing defenders will be able to easily block.

Wagner’s confidence is something that could use a boost as well. You can see at times, he isn’t quite sure what to do with the ball, and he either passes up a wide open three, or thinks about putting it on the deck, and then shoots it out of rhythm. In the NBA, confidence is one thing that none of the players should lack.

Another area of weakness for Wagner is his athleticism. While his length is something that helps him on defense, his athleticism, or lack thereof, is something that hurts him. While he is good with his lateral defense, he’s not somebody you want on a guy that will be able to cross him over or beat him off the dribble, he just isn’t quick enough.

And finally, Wagner could put on a little bit more weight/muscle if teams draft him to play the ‘4’ and ‘5’ at times. He just simply isn’t big enough to compete with the majority of the guys who play those positions in the NBA. He’s already a below-average rebounder, but he will just get squeezed out in the pros. In college, Wagner had a knack for finishing at the rim, and he can continue to do so at the next level if he puts on a few more lbs.

The Fit With The Grizzlies

This seems like the type of guy the Grizzlies front office would be interested in bringing on board. In fact, in Kevin O’Connor’s draft preview on ‘The Ringer’ he says that Wagner has shades of current Grizz big man Xavier Tillman.

He’s versatile, can play multiple positions, and has the look of a solid rotational player for years to come. If Wagner does fall to the Grizzlies, he also fits the bill of a guy that fell down the draft board and the Grizz just felt it was far enough and take him.

He would improve one of the Grizzlies biggest weaknesses from this past season — drop coverage on defense. Michigan played it a lot last season and Wagner was a huge part of it. He was able to play through screens and also knew where to be to prevent an open three. The Grizzlies got burned time after time throughout the season on that and ultimately played a big part in their first round exit against Utah.

The one thing that goes against Wagner is that he isn’t consistent enough from long range. At times, he would get the Ja Morant treatment of teams just letting him shoot uncontested from three. Like Ja, sometimes he made them pay, but not enough.

The Verdict

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Florida State at Michigan Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

I’m fine with the Memphis Grizzlies drafting Wagner, but prefer the guys already profiled on Grizzly Bear Blues. I also wouldn’t trade up to draft Wagner if I were the Grizzlies.

Wagner will fit right in to wherever he is drafted, and that’s potentially why he is considered a lottery pick in most mock draft I’ve seen. And I do think the Grizzlies are one of the teams he fits best.

He does a little bit of everything, is NBA ready, and still has plenty of upside. But it just comes off as somewhat of a boring pick.

Sometimes though, the boring pick is the right pick.

For more Grizzlies talk, subscribe to the Grizzly Bear Blues podcast network on Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, and IHeart. Follow Grizzly Bear Blues on Twitter and Instagram.