The NBA Draft is approaching, with the event set to take place Thursday night (July 29), and the last-minute buzz is flowing hot and heavy.
Add a major trade into the equation, and there are a lot of moving pieces, with the move potentially impacting the landing spot of former Michigan wing Franz Wagner, who is viewed as a consensus lottery pick.
Monday, the New Orleans Pelicans traded Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams, the Nos. 10 and 40 overall picks in the 2021 draft and a 2022 first-round pick (top-10 protected, via the Los Angeles Lakers) to the Memphis Grizzlies for Jonas Valanciunas and the Nos. 17 and 51 overall picks in 2021.
Now, it’s very possible — likely? — that Wagner is off the board before the Grizzlies pick at No. 10, but if he’s available, he’d be a home-run choice for the guard-heavy, wing-starved club, with ESPN.com’s Jonathan Givony describing the German as a “long rumored favorite of the Memphis front office.”
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So where will Wagner, who was invited among 20 other prospects to attend the draft in person, end up?
While the Toronto Rapers, who have the No. 4 overall pick, have taken a long look at Wagner, they’re fully expected to nab former Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs. It’s certainly possible that Wagner comes off the board before the No. 7 pick, but 7-13 is the most likely range Wagner will fall into.
Out of the eight most recent and notable mock drafts, two — Sports Illustrated and The Detroit News — have Wagner projected as going No. 8 to the Orlando Magic, who also pick at No. 5 overall. There has also been reported interest in Wagner from the Golden State Warriors at No. 7.
However, the overwhelmingly most commonly predicted destination for Wagner is No. 9 to the Sacramento Kings, with five recent mock drafts pegging him to head to the club. Should he slip out of the top 10, a possible landing spot is to the Indiana Pacers at No. 13, with the team having a need for wings.
Wagner isn’t the only Wolverine hoping to be drafted Thursday night. The Maize and Blue have three more draft hopefuls in forward Isaiah Livers, the most likely to be selected out of the trio, and guards Chaundee Brown Jr. and Mike Smith.
The Athletic‘s Sam Vecenie has Livers heading to the Toronto Raptors at No. 47 overall in the second round, while Givony projects him as heading to the Philadelphia 76ers at No. 50 and RookieWire.com’s Cody Taylor predicts he gets taken by the New Orleans Pelicans at No. 53. It’s worth mentioning that only four of the eight examined mock drafts included second-round projections, with Livers’ name appearing in three.
Neither Brown nor Smith showed up in any mock drafts observed. In ESPN.com’s best available prospect list, Brown checks in as the eighth-best small forward, while Smith’s name did not appear.
• Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated — No. 8 to the Orlando Magic
“While this is a bit of a swing spot in the lottery, Orlando is thought to be primarily focused on wings here. Considering the likelihood they add Barnes at No. 5, logic suggests the second selection will be a prospect who projects as a competent shooter, to help ensure a workable fit.
“With several young guards already on the roster, Orlando can theoretically pick from the wings available here, with Wagner, Moses Moody and Ziaire Williams among those linked. Rival teams believe the Magic are interested in trading this pick in the right scenario, as they don’t necessarily need to add multiple rookies to their roster, and are likely to enter next season with a bit of a logjam in the rotation, barring subsequent moves.”
• Rod Beard, The Detroit News — No. 8 to the Orlando Magic
“Within their rebuild, the Magic have some good pieces in the backcourt and big men. They could build depth on the wings, where Wagner is a solid option. He’s a good shooter and his defense is often overlooked. His size and three-point shooting will be a plus.”
• Jonathan Givony, ESPN.com — No. 9 to the Sacramento Kings
“Wagner’s name has gained traction in Sacramento despite a mysterious pre-draft process that included no NBA combine and few individual workouts. His fit with the Kings appears to be strong as the team attempts to surround its talented young backcourt nucleus of De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton with more perimeter options, three-point threats and versatile defenders at every position.
“The Kings are being extremely aggressive in trade talks and there is a good chance they won’t be making this pick, as well as their second-round pick at No. 39.”
• Sam Vecenie, The Athletic — No. 9 to the Sacramento Kings
“Three things have consistently come up when discussing what the Kings are thinking with sources around the league. First, that they would love to take a bigger wing/forward. Second, that defense is important to them in this pick. And third, that analytics will play a bigger role here than in other situations league-wide, given [general manager] Monte McNair’s background and ownership’s emphasis on being data-driven. Wagner is the guy that ticks all the boxes there as a 6-foot-9 player with real defensive acumen who is actually younger than quite a few of the one-and-dones in this class. This pick is also thought to have come up in trade discussions as the Kings look to compete for a playoff spot next year.”
• Kyle Boone, CBS Sports — No. 9 to the Sacramento Kings
“Sacramento has for weeks been linked to Michigan forward Franz Wagner and, for weeks, he has been a mainstay here in my mock. So I’ll continue to keep him here. Still only 19 years old after spending two seasons in college yet has the frame, shooting and defense to be an early NBA contributor.”
• Cody Taylor, Rookie Wire — No. 9 to the Sacramento Kings
“Wagner reportedly received a promise that he’d be taken in the top 10 on Thursday, and the Kings certainly make sense as a landing spot for him. He could provide the Kings with a solid playmaker at this point of the draft. Chad Ford, a longtime draft expert, believes the pairing of Wagner and the Kings is inevitable because of the analytics and his potential to develop into a good defender at the next level. With an improved shot, Wagner could develop into just that but his playmaking alone should also be valued for the Kings here.”
• Krysten Peek, Yahoo Sports – No. 9 to the Sacramento Kings
“Wagner is a 6-foot-9 wing who excelled in mismatch situations last season. He ranked in the 94th percentile in post-up situations, averaging 1.2 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports. Wagner is the younger brother of Orlando Magic center Moritz Wagner and can provide solid minutes on a young Kings team alongside Tyrese Haliburton, De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield.
• Mike DeCourcey, Sporting News — No. 13 to the Indiana Pacers
“Wagner at least has the tools to be a successful pick. He is a tremendous finisher at the rim, an exceptional defender and an aggressive rebounder.
“As is the problem with many top prospects in this draft, he has not shown a consistent long-range shooting touch. He hit 34 percent as a sophomore, which at least was an improvement from his freshman year. He is not comfortable as a first option; that is not necessarily a bad quality for a mid-round pick. If he suddenly develops a taste for that, as well as the 3-point shot that could facilitate stardom, great. If not, he already has shown great comfort as a role player on a winning team.”
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