Moritz Wagner’s ALBA Berlin team suffered a double-digit defeat in the NBBL Top 4 semifinal to Bayern Munich on Saturday afternoon.
Berlin, the defending champions of the German U19 league, were outclassed by Bayern Munich and fell into a big hole early. Munich’s pressure defense befuddled ALBA’s guards, who committed a rash of turnovers throughout and struggled to even get the ball across half court at times.
Wagner was never able to find a rhythm after picking up a couple ticky tack fouls on the perimeter by over aggressively hedging pick and rolls. As a result, Munich led by double-digits throughout most of the matchup despite a late run by ALBA to cut the lead to six in the closing seconds.
Wagner played limited minutes and his team was dominated on the night, which made it somewhat more difficult to evaluate him. Nobody is going to grade out very well in one of their worst individual and team performances of the season. For Wagner, who averaged 16.6 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals per game, it was a disappointing night all around.
He played just 22 minutes and was 1 of 5 from the floor, finishing with 9 points and six rebounds in the loss. Here are some thoughts on Wagner’s abilities after watching him in a full game action. I also cut together a few clips from– with sound added because the audio was out of sync (and in German) — which can provide a taste of Wagner’s game.
The first thing that stands out when watching Wagner play is his motor. John Beilein would certainly label him an ‘energy giver’ as he was sprinting around in warmups, encouraging teammates during the game and standing up cheering on the bench — even after picking up two early fouls. He showed great hustle chasing after loose balls and was very active defensively. He also wasn’t afraid to chop it up with a Bayern Munich player after a tussle for a loose ball.
Most of his offense on Saturday came on second chances around the rim. Wagner crashed the glass aggressively throughout the game, but seemed to reach a new level of intensity in the second half. He battled for loose balls and was able to come up with a putback or a trip to the free throw line.
He also showed off the ability to get out in transition and push the ball. He grabbed one rebound around the free throw line and took the ball coast-to-coast, drawing a foul in the process. In the halfcourt offense, he’s capable of attacking the hoop with the straightline drive, but over penetrated himself into a few problems like tough shots and an offensive foul.
He battled for low post position on several possessions, but his guards never did him the favor of passing him the ball on the block. The majority of his offensive touches came in the pick-and-pop where he would usually try to drive past his recovering defender.
Simply put, Wagner needs to get a lot stronger to make an impact in the frontcourt in the Big Ten. Wagner was pushed aside on at least two different occasions trying to box out his man on a missed free throw. It wasn’t for lack of effort, but he just couldn’t move people to secure the free throw misses — a task that won’t be any easier in the Big Ten.
As previously mentioned, Wagner picked up a number of cheap fouls trying to hedge against smaller guards and not moving his feet well enough. That’s not to say he doesn’t have the quickness to do that, but he’ll need to be more disciplined in that regard.
He didn’t show off much of his jumpshot — his two three-point attempts were desperation attempts late in the clock — so it’s hard to judge how his stroke will fit in at the next level. It’s certainly a part of his game, but not nearly as much as some people have guessed. Just 19% of his field goal attempts this season were threes and he made 32% of them (international line). So while he may be a capable jump shooter, he’s much more comfortable slashing and driving off the pick and pop.
Wagner fits at the four position in Michigan’s offense and he should be able to bring some different things to the table than the other options. He has legitimate size and length and he’s also the most aggressive straight-line slasher of the bunch. His handle and shot will probably have to be tightened up before he can make a serious impact — and he’ll have to add significant weight — but it’s easy to see why John Beilein would be excited about a 6-foot-9 forward that plays hard and attacks the basket.
There’s been a lot of talk about someone potentially needing to slide over to the five position, but after watching him play I can’t quite see that for Wagner — at least not anytime soon. DJ Wilson, while also skinny, still seems like the most likely candidate to make that shift. Wagner looks like a big wing in Michigan’s offense through and through.
That’s also a very crowded position in the Michigan offense with Zak Irvin, Aubrey Dawkins, Kameron Chatman and DJ Wilson all factoring into the equation. There’s a lot to love about Wagner’s length, hustle and ability to drive to the basket, but it also wouldn’t be a surprise to see him need to add significant weight for a year before he’s ready to be a contributor.