2023-24 NBA Breakout Player Watchlist: Is Franz Wagner a Future Star?

Heading into the 2023-24 NBA season, Lineups.com will be doing weekly profiles on potential breakout players across the league. First honors for the series goes to Orlando Magic forward Franz Wagner. Can the 22-year-old take the next step to All-Star or even All-NBA production? Based on the stats, metrics, and eye test, Franz Wagner is primed for a volcanic eruption.

Franz Wagner Stats & Metrics

Before diving into the film, let’s break down what crucial stats and metrics shout about Franz Wagner’s future.

As a 21-year-old sophomore this past season, the 6’10” forward averaged 18.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. Only 37 players in the NBA (min. 40 games) matched or exceeded Wagner in every category. When including his 48.5 FG% into the equation, the number of players plummets to 17! Of that group, eleven reached an All-NBA team while three were All-Stars. The players that earned neither were Kawhi Leonard, Devin Booker, and Zach LaVine – desirable company.

Wagner’s traditional stats were not empty calories either, as Orlando was 10.2 points per 100 possessions better with Wagner on the court compared to off. This on-off mark tied Joel Embiid for 11th best in the league. The next best Magic starter was Wendell Carter Jr at only 2.2 points per 100 possessions, so Wagner’s on-off success cannot simply be attributed to a horrible bench either.

Advanced metrics paint a bright future for Wagner too. The following respected metrics and explanations are via BBall Index and display key offensive pillars. Shot Making measures shooting efficiency when adjusted for shot quality, or degree of difficulty. Shot Creation displays the tendency of a player to create his own shot. One on One Talent captures how effectively a player “applies pressure on the defense and creates individual scoring opportunities.” Playmaking Talent “half measures capability and volume of playmaking and half measures effectiveness of playmaking for others.” Gravity indicates how closely the defense covers the player due to his shooting talent and volume. Points Over Expectation “uses league average efficiencies per possession in each play type to set an expectation” and then compares that to the individual’s numbers.

For grades, BBall Index compares a player’s season to every individual season in the database (going back to 2013-14) and turns their percentile into a letter grade.

How did Franz Wagner’s 2022-23 season stack up in these metrics? He received at least an “A-” in all of the following categories:

  • Rim Shot Making
  • Midrange Shot Making
  • 3PT Shot Making
  • Overall Shot Creation
  • One on One Talent
  • Playmaking Talent
  • Overall Gravity
  • Points Over Expectation

Here are the other players this season to also receive at least an “A-” in every category:

  • Damian Lillard
  • Donovan Mitchell
  • Jalen Brunson
  • Jamal Murray
  • Kevin Durant
  • Kyrie Irving
  • Luka Doncic
  • Norman Powell
  • Stephen Curry
  • Tyrese Haliburton

Notice anything (besides a Norman Powell sighting)? Every player listed is a guard except for Kevin Durant, while every player is in or very near their prime outside of Luka Doncic and Tyrese Haliburton. Wagner’s place in the center of the Venn Diagram is a testament to his ceiling. 6’10” forwards with these levels of guard skills simply don’t come around often. As an added bonus, Wagner led that list in Matchup Difficulty, which estimates how tough a player’s defensive assignment is on average. He’s quickly morphing into one of the best all-around wings in the entire NBA…and again, he just turned 22-years-old.

Franz Wagner Film

Watching Franz Wagner go to work on offense is a thing of beauty. His bread and butter revolves around leveraging a pick into a downhill drive – Giannis Antetokounmpo was the only player taller than him to average more drives per game.


In the clip below, Wagner manages to beat a switching Obi Toppin around the edge, which forces Isaiah Hartenstein to step up and contest. Wagner sees the open corner shooter through traffic, waits for Hartenstein to vertically contest (thus not allowing him to block the pass with his left arm since it’s in the air), and throws an on-target sling pass.

While Wagner throws an accurate fast ball, he’s exceptional at throwing a slow-motion Eephus that drops perfectly into the catch radius. In the clip below, Wagner understands Sengun resides in no man’s land and doesn’t have the quickness or length to recover. Therefore, he lobs a pass like a grenade to a rolling Bamba, who converts the easy dunk.

Due to his patience and timing, Wagner is one of the better lob passers in the league. Plus, that clip displayed his size advantage. Jabari Smith Jr is 6’11” tall with a 7’1” wingspan; he actually contested Wagner’s pass, but it didn’t matter because of Wagner’s length.

The next clip portrays Wagner’s ability to manipulate the defense through deception. He fakes the first pass to Chuma Okeke on the perimeter, which makes Reggie Bullock step out to Okeke. Because of this, the passing lane to the corner shooter is wide open. Wagner now looks to the corner and fakes the pass, which causes Dorian Finney-Smith to step to his left in order to deny the lane. However, Wagner immediately takes advantage of this by throwing a no look bounce pass to Bamba, who cuts at the perfect moment.

Wagner’s passing IQ and patience was on full display here. Not only can he misdirect a defense, but he understands how to exploit the subsequent chain reaction.


Wagner’s patience also translates to his scoring. In the clip below, Orlando forces 6’2” Jalen Brunson to switch. Wagner isolates Brunson and wisely utilizes the size mismatch to back Brunson down for a layup. By doing so, he keeps the ball protected from the quicker Brunson, who could swipe at the ball if Wagner played him straight up.

Wagner took his time and turned into open space when a help defender tried to approach. He also had his head on a swivel ready to pass in case New York aggressively sent help. The Knicks were so petrified of this that they decided to leave Brunson on an island instead.

One of Wagner’s best scoring traits is his finishing ability. In the next clip, Wagner drives to his right before crossing to his left in order to use the traffic against the defender. He created just enough separation to convert a tough scoop layup with the defender right on his hip.

That’s not just any defender either – it’s DPOY candidate Evan Mobley, who stands at 6’11” with a massive 7’4” wingspan. Wagner rendered Mobley’s size irrelevant because of his own proficiency in this area and understanding of angles.

Speaking of angles, check out Wagner’s bend in this next clip. His gather step occurs at the free throw line, but he’s able to contort his body while taking giant steps for the layup.

That’s the bend of an edge rusher! This flexibility combined with his long arms mean Wagner is a layup waiting to happen at any moment.

Defenders would love to go under screens, but daring him to shoot hardly works out for the defense. Kevon Looney refuses to fully step up when Wagner isolates him in the following clip, so Wagner dances to freeze Looney before punishing him.

Wagner’s range extends to the outside too. He’s capable of firing off the dribble from three without hesitation, as the Timberwolves found out here:

To make matters worse, he’s a dangerous off-ball threat too. Wagner shot 40.6% on catch and shoot threes. He produced 1.22 points per possession off screens and 1.49 points per possession on cuts; these figures ranked 6th and 13th in the league, respectively (min. 50 possessions).

Overall, look for Wagner to terrorize NBA defenses for the next decade. His partnership with Paolo Banchero is not Batman and Robin, but rather a Superman and Batman situation. Wagner could not play for a more fitting team – Magic.

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Braxton has been covering the NBA for Lineups since the 2021-22 season. He's worked with multiple collegiate coaching staffs about analytics and scouting, which has allowed him to understand the game on a deeper level. Braxton is also a contributor at Thunderous Intentions and NBA Analysis Network.

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