We’re officially one week away from the 2018 NBA Draft as the Locked on Pelicans NBA Draft coverage continues. To this point, we’ve profiled Josh Okogie, Justin Jackson, and Vincent Edwards, all wings who are expected to be drafted in the latter half of the second round. Today will be a little different, as we look at Michigan big man Moe Wagner, who is currently projected as a pick in the early 30s of the second round, although sites such as Sports Illustrated and Tankathon have him as late as pick No. 40.
Vitals: PF/C, Junior, Michigan, 6’11”, 240 lbs, 21 years old.
Last season’s stats: 14.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 52.8% FG%, 39.4% 3PT on 4.1 attempts per game
Wagner should be a name known to those who tuned in to this year’s NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, as he put on a show in the Final Four to end Loyola-Chicago’s Cinderella run with a 24-point, 15-rebound performance that helped propel the Wolverines to the NCAA Championship game. Of course, Michigan got washed in the title game, but that had less to do with Wagner and more to do with Villanova’s offensive explosion from their wings. Wagner was named First-Team All-Tournament for his cumulative tournament performance.
Watching his tournament games, it’s clear that Wagner’s best skills lie on the offensive side of the ball. The stat that immediately jumps out is his efficiency behind the three-point arc, where he’s shot over 39% in each of the past two seasons. He possesses a high-release, high-arcing shot with a fairly quick release, and ability to create on offense that should translate well in the NBA.
The German big man seems to be able to make up in dexterity what he lacks in athleticism, although that has hindered him slightly on defense, despite generally good court awareness. However, his offensive skill should be enough to cover for it as he adjusts to the NBA game early in his career. His experience playing deep into two NCAA Tournaments as well as time in German and Euroleague basketball over the last five years should also prove to be important.
How Does He Fit?
Wings have been focused on as probably the biggest need for the New Orleans Pelicans, but with DeMarcus Cousins’s looming free agency decision, Cheick Diallo may be the best big off the bench should Cousins leave. Wagner would provide another body there, but he would also be someone who can stretch the floor at the center position, which Coach Alvin Gentry has shown to favor in all of his lineups outside of garbage time, even going so far as to play Nikola Mirotic at that spot when Anthony Davis is off the floor. Even if Cousins decides to stay with the team, Wagner would still be able to provide minutes as a backup at either the power forward or center positions, allowing for critical rest periods for the Pelicans star big men.
Pelicans general manager Dell Demps has spent the last two drafts moving up to the early second round to select high-ceiling, low-floor types of players with chances to prove themselves after shaky freshman seasons in college following decorated high school careers. Frank Jackson (pick No. 31) and Diallo (No. 33) each were MVPs in their respective McDonald’s All-American Games in high school. Wagner took a different path, but could still be valuable to the Pelicans while projected to be available in that same early second round section of the draft.
A team like Dallas at No. 33 may select Wagner, as they do have an affinity for German big men, but don’t rule out the possibility of Demps and the Pelicans moving up to take the former Wolverine should he fall much further.
And for final thoughts, here’s the highlight video from his Final Four dominance against Loyola-Chicago:
Think the Pelicans should trade up to draft Moe Wagner? Any other draft thoughts? Leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter @JasonQuigs