Moritz Wagner was dressed sharply on Wednesday afternoon — a suit, a tie, a clean shave. It was the type of outfit you’d wear to the NBA Draft.
But Wagner wasn’t there to make an announcement though, at least not yet. He has until April 22 to decide whether or not to declare and intends to take as much of that time as he needs.
“I didn’t give myself a timetable,” he said.
Wagner artfully dodged nearly every question lobbed his way. He’s talked with Michigan coach John Beilein about his future, but kept the contents of that conversation between the two of them. He knows the criteria he’ll use to make the decision, but, “I honestly don’t want to share them.”
“It’s definitely a good problem to have,” Wagner said. “… This is the second year in a row with no injuries, no major injuries, where I can stand here in front of you and try to avoid questions about my future.
“… Just trying to be the best politician I can be.”
The 20-year old declared last season without signing with an agent, then withdrew his name after getting feedback at the Draft Combine.
“That testing the waters last year, that really threw us for a loop,” Beilein said. “… That was one month of just gaining all kinds of information. What’s agent-driven? What’s NBA-driven? What’s media-driven? And what’s the truth?”
This year, Wagner saw marked improvement in rebounding, jumping to a 24.9 defensive rebounding rate from 15.2 in 2017 while retaining about the same level of shooting ability. On the defensive end, he’s roughly the same player. Though it’s certainly possible for him to develop on that end as well, Wagner is probably going to struggle defensively at the next level.
Staying another year in college could change that, but it probably won’t. Wagner will always have some trouble defending versatile big men at the next level for the same reason the entire Big Ten had defending him: his size makes it hard to defend smaller, quicker players in space.
Wagner’s rebounding improvement — along with a strong NCAA Tournament and the general apprehension NBA teams might have about drafting him as a senior next year — means that right now could be his ceiling as a draft prospect.
As for the Wolverines, Wagner staying would likely cement them as one of the Big Ten favorites heading into next year. They would be retaining the best player on a Final Four team, along with Zavier Simpson and — depending on his own draft decision — potentially Charles Matthews.
Wagner staying would create a scholarship logjam, as Michigan would have one more than their 13 alloted scholarship players after a five-man recruiting class comes in, meaning someone would have to transfer. (Brent Hibbitts, a preferred walk-on who announced a transfer last Tuesday, was not under scholarship.) But that’s a problem the Wolverines would love to have.
Mock drafts have Wagner going anywhere from the back end of the first round to the middle of the second. What Wagner ultimately hears from scouts on that front could be one of those deciding factors he didn’t want to share.
“I don’t think it’ll be before too long (before Wagner makes a decision),” Beilein said. “I think we’re just gaining the final information from the different sources.”