The Los Angeles Lakers continued their trend of selecting more polished and experienced prospects at the end of the first round, picking University of Michigan junior Moritz Wagner with the 25th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. The 6’11” big led the Wolverines to the NCAA championship game as their go-to scorer and emotional leader, averaging 14.6 points and 7.1 rebounds in 27.6 minutes per game, all on a 61.9 TS%.
Wagner is an elite spot-up shooter, and not just for his position. He ranked in the 95th percentile amongst all spot-up shooters in the NCAA, tallying an astounding 1.27 points per possession in those situations. He’s just as effective when teams close-out hard to chase him off of the 3-point line, where he shows off his ball handling and passing ability when attacking the rack.
Let’s take a closer look at his game.
He wouldn’t have been available with the 25th pick if he didn’t come with question marks, and most of them are on the defensive end. He isn’t much of a leaper and lacks anticipation on rotations, making him an ineffective rim protector. Quick hands and nimble feet serve him well on hard hedges in pick & roll situations, but Wagner struggles to change direction, which makes it difficult for him to stick with smaller players on switches. These issues are amplified by a lack of strength, which also hinders him as a post defender.
It’s unusual for a player with as much offensive talent as Wagner has to be available at that point in the draft, but his ability to become a passable defender will determine his ceiling. He’s a perfect fit next to a certain free agent target if he can get there, as a stretch-5 who can take advantage of the open shots that are created for him.