While some fans like the idea of having a high-motor big man who can space the floor on the roster, others felt there were better, younger players with higher upside on the board. Until proven otherwise, those fans will continue to argue whether or not Wagner was a reach.
The front office is less split on the decision, and couldn’t be more thrilled to have Wagner aboard.
Even team president Magic Johnson, who played college ball at the Michigan State, was eager to pick the University of Michigan standout.
“I will forever be accused of having a Michigan Wolverine bias, Pelinka said jokingly in his address to reporters at the end of the night. “Magic had to get over the Spartan drafting a wolverine, but once we got over that, we knew he was our guy.”
Pelinka said a Spartan really pushed for a Wolverine.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) June 22, 2018
“Wagner was a big target for Magic,” he said.
Pelinka’s thoughts on Wagner: Great passer, good in pick-and-roll situations, high basketball IQ
The 6-foot-11 German will be joining a team of players who know exactly what it’s like to be in his position, considering most of them were rookies only one or two years ago. A few of Wagner’s new teammates were present at his pre-draft workout in early June and they were impressed with what they saw, according to Pelinka,
“Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart were actually at Mo Wagner’s workout the day he came in and both of them were elbowing Earvin and I saying ‘Man, this guy would be fun to play with,’” Pelinka said, something Hart and Kuzma’s reactions on social media in the wake of the pick seemed to confirm.
Moooooooooooooo— kuz (@kylekuzma) June 22, 2018
Wagner will hope to enjoy the same success both Hart and Kuzma had as rookies playing under head coach Luke Walton. And though they’ve only met a handful of times, Walton said he was impressed with the 21-year-old from the day they met.
“He’s always got this big smile on his face,” Walton said. “He’s got a way of being honest and talking about people and things but keeping the room light. I don’t think he had to convince Rob much. The Michigan thing was pretty strong, but he impressed all of us from his interview in Chicago. Which is hard to do, to sit down in front of a bunch of guys you don’t know and have the room electric the way he did.
“That was impressive, and then the two workouts here were just great. He was competing, trash talking, coaching from the floor. His passing ability, there’s a lot he brings to the table that we can use.”
Wagner might be facing an uphill battle for the support of the fans in his rookie season, but from the looks of it, he’s already made a strong impression on the rest of the organization. It’s only a matter of time before his infectious energy catches up with Lakers fans across the globe.
All quotes were transcribed via interviews posted by Lakers.com.