Franz Wagner is officially back, now what comes next?

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Great piece as always Dylan. I liked that you mentioned some comparison on creation with how many (or few) assists he had relative to others in the past. I know I’m one of the people who feel that a Stauskas-like blow-up next year is key for Michigan to hit their potential. But he may not have the facilitator role skills.

Curious if there are others who had so few assists early and evolved later - Rahk, Levert, THJ, etc.

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Will be interesting to see if any of our guards have the ability to find Franz on so many of those beautiful cuts he made off the ball last season. X was just so good at that…I forget what it’s like to not have a phenomenal passer in the backcourt!

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Why would they move Franz to the 4 if Livers does not come back? We wouldn’t have a 3 at that point and Johns can easily play the 4.

I think there are situations where Johns needs to play the five… in that case if Zeb Jackson or Cole Bajema is more ready to play than Terrance Williams, you could shift Franz to the four.

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Agree on Johns at the 5. I think the #1 concern next year is how the 80 minutes at guard are going to be split up…but a close second is how the center position shakes out - especially defensively. I think Hunter and Austin are going to be fine offensively…but we may struggle big time defensively and Johns is the only alternative now.

Excellent article; I like Johns at the 4, Livers at the 3, and Wagner at the 2. Then shifting up one number together to go small ball.

Zak Irvin, who had 26 assists total in his first season and a half at Michigan (about 1/2 assist per game), and then averaged about 3 per game thereafter.

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I’m really excited to have him back. He’s a really fun, crafty, exciting player to watch. I love that length when he finishes over a guy guarding him well, and his low-speed gear. Getting to see him flourish will be a reasonable consolation prize for not getting Christopher. If we could nab a serious three shooter for the 2 spot in the transfer market who is also a really solid dribbler and late-clock guy, and if we bring Livers back, my expectations for the season are going to be pretty darn high.

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This comparison both encourages and worries me. Irvin definitely grew into a more well-rounded player, but he never became the sharp-shooter or play-maker we’re going to need Franz to be.

I was hoping that Levert would be a comp in this stat - and he did raise his Assist rate from a measly 11.5 to 33+ in h is career. But Franz was only 5.9 last year - slightly better than Irvin’s sub 5 number I guess. I guess Stauskas went from 7.6 to 18.8. Maybe there’s hope…

Franz is already way ahead of Irvin’s freshman year. He’s going to be very good this year. He’s going to handle in ball screens probably 4-5x what he did last year. We are talking about a guy who was averaging 15+ per night over the last month of the year.

I’m not that worried about Franz’s passing given that he showed so much improvement there late in the year.

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Remember also who Irvin/Levert were paired with–high-usage senior Simpson sucked up a whole lot of the potential assists on the team. Franz was looked to, particularly later in the season, when the offense was bogged down and someone needed to make a bucket. His role this year will necessarily expand into general playmaking, and I don’t think his assist rate last year is a particularly good predictor of whether he’s able to make those kinds of plays this year.

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Offensively, I think Wagner has a lot of strengths that were seen in junior season DJ Wilson. Long, smart player, sees the floor, willing passer, set shot 3, decent handle for his size. Wagner just needs to mature physically, and get stronger.

https://www.sports-reference.com/cbb/players/dj-wilson-1.html

https://www.sports-reference.com/cbb/players/franz-wagner-1.html

Yea I’m sure Johns will play the 5 some, but I don’t like Zeb or Cole at the 3. I mean if Livers is gone they will have to get creative I guess.

I think a three guard lineup will get some run every season. It was effective at times last season and none of those players are remotely a 3. They present matchup problems, just like a small ball 5 can.

Franz Wagner at 38

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25. Franz Wagner, F, Michigan | Sophomore

Height: 6’9” | Weight: 205 | Age: 18

It was kind of tough to know what to make of Wagner’s freshman year, but he began living up to the considerable hype in the second half of the season, looking much more confident and showcasing the scoring ability that made him a touted prospect in Germany. He will have to overcome a big athletic adjustment to succeed in the NBA, but Wagner has legit three-level scoring potential and can be dangerous in several facets offensively.

Getting stronger and dealing better with physicality will be imperative, and defensively, there are going to be concerns. But there’s some thought that Wagner might have been a first-rounder this year off raw ability had he stayed in Europe, with college basketball expediting his need to adjust to more athletic competition in the Big Ten. Michigan will have to keep leaning on him, and there’s a decent chance he breaks out fully in year two.

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Do people really think that his big issue is/will be “adjusting to more athletic competition in the Big Ten” and “overcome a big athletic adjustment to succeed in the NBA”?

It seems to me just white guy tropes, I didn’t think athleticism was a big issue this year

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I think that he definitely had to adjust over the course of the year. It isn’t that he is less athletic, just that the level of competition and athleticism is different. He adjusted to what worked, what didn’t work, etc. at this level.

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Well said Dylan. You started to see him evolve during the season and pick his spots better. I do still worry a bit about his ball handling and defending if he has to play the 2 a lot…but if his 3pt% was closer to what we expected (38-40%) we would have a totally different opinion of his season last year. I think he can get there this season and will be on his way to the draft.

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