The Washington Wizards are picking squarely in the middle of the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft. Whether Washington trades up, down or stays firm at No. 15, here is the latest in our series on draft prospects whom the Wizards could consider selecting.
2021 NBA Draft Prospect Preview: Franz Wagner
Age: 19 (turns 20 in Aug.)
2020/21 stats: 28 G, 12.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.0 bpg, 47.7 FG% (4.4/9.3), 34.3 3PT% (1.3/3.6), 83.5 FT%
Player comparison: Kyle Kuzma, Deni Avdija
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 13th, Sports Illustrated 13th, Ringer 8th, NBADraft.net 15th, Bleacher Report 10th
5 things to know:
-Wagner is the younger brother of Moe, who played with the Wizards from 2019 to 2021 before being traded away in the Daniel Gafford deal. Like his brother, Franz is tall and can shoot from the outside. Moe was a late first-round pick, while Franz has a chance to go in the lottery.
-He is 6-foot-9 with some positional versatility. While Wagner likely profiles as a four at the NBA level, he has the potential to play some three and maybe even some five in small-ball lineups. He's a fluid athlete who can run the floor, pass and has flashed some potential to create off the dribble. Wagner is good at moving the ball in the halfcourt with quick passes.
-While Wagner shoots fairly well for his size, he topped out at 34.3% from three as a sophomore. For him to reach his potential offensively, that number will have to go up in the NBA. His brother had a similar profile entering the league and he has struggled to establish a consistent role in part because he hasn't made his threes consistently.
-Wagner did a good job forcing turnovers in college, averaging a steal and a block per game. He's fairly quick for his size on the defensive end and showed the versatility to guard different types of players. Defense is considered a strength for Wagner and one that could someday be one of his best selling points as an NBA player.
-He doesn't make a ton of plays above the rim, but has some craftiness in the paint. He's got a good floater and can make off-balance hook shots, using his body to hold off defenders.
Fit with Wizards:
If Wagner is there at 15, which isn't a given, the Wizards could certainly find a lot to like. He would give them more depth at forward, which they need, and potential both as a shooter and a defender, which they also need.
Wagner would be added to a group of young forwards that includes Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija. He would likely start out behind both of them on the depth chart with the possibility of competing for more minutes as his career develops.
Wagner's game has some parallels to Avdija's. They are both 6-foot-9 with the mobility of a guard, excellent feel for the game and creativity as passers. Avdija may present higher upside due to his speed and skills in transition, but Wagner may be further along as a scorer in the halfcourt.
If the Wizards drafted Wagner, him and Avdija could form an interesting duo in lineups together. They would give the Wizards two forwards with good size who can move the ball.
Wagner may not present the star potential the top players in this class do, but he projects to be a solid NBA forward for many years. The Wizards need to bolster their depth and he could help that cause.