Franz Wagner loved seeing how two-way players impacted the NBA playoffs this year starting with three from the Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns.
“You look at Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Cam Johnson,” Wagner said. “To be a good two-way player on the wing, obviously you have to defend really well. Saw Mikal Bridges sometimes guard the point guard, or most of the time the main players on the other team, and then also shoot the ball well.”
The projected lottery pick out of Michigan noticed their ability to knock down 3s helped opened the floor for Devin Booker and Chris Paul to operate.
“I feel like every year, the past couple of the years, that wings, long wings and versatile players are more important, becoming more important,” Wagner said. “I’m lucky that I am one of those guys and hopefully I can be in that position one day, but it’s definitely a lot of fun to see that (in the playoffs).”
Saying he’s almost 6-11 in height, Wagner can shoot it, has handles and can defend, qualities that should lead him to being long off the board before the Suns are on the clock as they have the 29th overall pick in Thursday’s draft.
“He’s a 6-10, two-guard,” said Michigan freshman center Hunter Dickerson, who withdrew his name from the 2021 draft earlier this month.
“He can play one through five if we need him to. He’s so skilled, so versatile. As a defender, when I’m guarding him in practice, I don’t know what to do.”
In short, Wagner has a skill set the Suns value.
“I think versatility is one of the most important things in the game today,” Wagner said. “I think I can shoot. I think I can dribble. I think I can play defense. I think I can defend really well at multiple positions. I think that’s going to fit in well. I know how to read the game, too, and know how to play within a system. I think that’ll help me fit in with whatever team I’m going to play at, but I also think I have a lot of room to grow.”
Wagner politely declined to reveal the teams he’s had workouts with during this draft process, but did expand on what he can improve upon as a player.
“I think I can improve a lot on creating my shot and creating for other people when I don’t have an advantage,” said Wagner, who was third on the team in scoring at Michigan last season at 12.5 points a game on 47.7% shooting.
Wagner connected on 34.3% of his 3s as a sophomore after making 31.1% of them his freshman year. In his final college game, Wagner shot 1-of-10, going 0-for-4 from 3 in Michigan’s 51-49 loss to UCLA in the Elite Eight
“I think that’s the most important thing for me going forward and then also showing I can shoot the ball consistently,” Wagner continued. “I was kind of up and down in college.”
Wagner already has NBA ties going into the draft.
His older brother, forward/center Mo Wagner, just finished his third NBA season while his college head coach, Juwan Howard, had an 19-year NBA career as a player after being taken fifth overall out of Michigan in 1994 and worked five years as an assistant with the Miami Heat under Erik Spoelstra.
“He’s so open about everything,” said Wagner about Howard, who played in Portland under Suns coach Monty Williams when Williams was an assistant there under current Atlanta Hawks coach Nate McMillan.
“Always wants to help, always reaching out, always wants you to ask questions and stuff like that and I did that a bunch while I was there. Not a lot of college players have that luxury of having a good college coach that has already been and coached at the level where you want to get to.”
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