The Kings aren’t on the clock quite yet, but the build-up to the 2021 NBA Draft is upon us and nothing is a sure bet. They are a team that is mentioned in almost every rumor, and whether they stick around and select at the N0. 9 pick is anyone’s guess at this point.
If they do stay at their current position, the one prospect they have been attached to more than any other is Michigan forward Franz Wagner. The 19-year-old sophomore was even seen working out with Kings forward Harrison Barnes this summer.
During his pre-draft media session on Monday, Wagner spoke about Barnes and what the experience was like going up against the nine-year pro.
“It was a great time, I learned a lot,” Wagner said. “We were working out in the same gym. We played a little bit against each other.”
Barnes is known as a consummate professional on and off the court. He’s a workout warrior who takes excellent care of his body both during the season and in the summer months.
In a nutshell, Barnes is the perfect veteran to learn from if you are a prospect hoping to figure out how to stay in the league long term.
“I think for me, it was really cool for me to see a guy like that, who’s been in the league for so long and still works so hard,” Wagner said. “He’s so diligent and disciplined about everything he does and I think I learned a lot in the couple of weeks I spent with him. It was definitely a lot of fun competing with him.”
Wagner is an intriguing player. He was listed at 6-foot-9 coming into last season with the Wolverines, but he confirmed that he has grown.
“I would say I’m almost 6-11, maybe not quite there yet, but I definitely grew a little bit over this past year,” Wagner said.
There is hope that with time Wagner can play both the three and the four at the NBA level. He might even pair well on a front line with Barnes.
He is a jack-of-all-trades type player who does a little of everything. He needs to refine most aspects of his game, but there is a lot to like about his skill set.
“I think I can shoot, I think I can dribble, I can play defense, I think I can defend really well at multiple positions -- I think that’s going to fit in well,” Wagner said. “I know how to read the game too and how to play within a system. I think that will help me fit in with whatever team I’m going to play at.”
Teams like the Kings and Warriors, who are both around Wagner’s range in the draft, are looking for players that can step on the floor and play right away. They both could trade out of the top 10 with the hopes of finding a veteran who can step in and help right away.
Wagner thinks he is a balance of both worlds -- a prospect who can step in now, but also has potential for more.
“I have a lot of room to grow,” Wagner said. “I think that combination of maturity in my game and being able to fit in right away, and also, being able to improve a lot more, I think is what makes me unique in this draft.”
After the top five or six players in the upcoming draft, it is a wide open field. Wagner could go anywhere from No. 7 all the way to No. 15. His ability to defend and act as a secondary distributor is intriguing. He needs to work on his 3-point shot, but he is a player with nice size and a very good feel for the game.
The fact that he spent time with Barnes this summer could be just coincidental, but either way, the Kings likely have as much or more intel on Wagner as any team in the league. That could come in handy when the draft starts on Thursday evening.