In his junior season with the Wolverines, the 6-foot-11 German averaged career highs in points per game (14.6), rebounds per game (7.1) and 3-point makes per game (1.6 on 4.1 attempts). That unique combination of size and shooting makes him a hot commodity, especially late in the first round where he’s projected to be picked and, most importantly, where the Lakers will be picking.
Wagner had an opportunity to impress the Lakers’ brass Sunday morning and according to him, almost everything went well.
”Pretty good,“ Wagner said (via the Lakers’ official Twitter account). “I didn’t make as many shots as I wanted to and didn’t win as many games but that’s always the case. It was a good workout though.”
Among those in attendance to watch the 21-year-old big man go through his workout was fellow Michigan Wolverine Rob Pelinka, who Wagner said he has some relationship with already.
“We know that (Michigan basketball is good),” Wagner said when asked if he spoke about the team’s success with Pelinka. “We don’t have to talk about that a lot. We see each other around. It’s obviously always good to see a fellow Wolverine, and he’s a good dude.”
Regardless of who picks him on draft night, Wagner will head into the NBA with high expectations because of his heritage. A German big man who can space the floor, Wagner carries the burden of (at the very least back home) being compared to future hall of famer Dirk Nowitzki.
Wagner said he grew up idolizing Nowitzki, but his relationship with the lifelong Dallas Maverick has been limited to a handful of conversations.
”We don’t have a very big relationship,” Wagner said. “We know each other and he offers advice but I mainly leave him alone. When I need something I ask him but he’s a legend so I try to step back a little bit.
While it’s unrealistic to expect Wagner to mirror the career of a former MVP and a 13-time All-Star, it sounds like Wagner is willing to embrace the challenge of being Germany’s next great basketball star.
”Dirk is basketball over there. Everyone that starts with basketball starts with Dirk Nowitzki. He’s a symbol,” Wagner said. “I’m very proud to be a part of that movement. It’s exciting.”
With a handful of promising young big men on their roster, it’s far from a sure thing the Lakers use their first-round pick on a center, however, if they do decide to go that direction, Wagner wouldn’t be a bad choice.