Moritz Wagner's shooting ability could earn him minutes beside LeBron James

Los Angeles Lakers Introduce 2018 Draft Picks

In 2017, German-born center Moritz Wagner declared for the NBA Draft but didn’t hire an agent.

After receiving some intel regarding his assumed draft position, he un-declared and returned to the University of Michigan for his junior season.

That ended up to be a smart move. Wagner helped lead the Wolverines to the NCAA national championship game in March and averaged 15.0 points 7.3 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament. For the season, he averaged 14.6 points and 7.1 rebounds, but his 39.4 percent three-point percentage is what made him a high-profile professional prospect.

When the 2018 Draft rolled around, Wagner’s status as a future NBA player was solidified based on his recent postseason success. The 7-foot 21 year old was selected with the 25th overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers.

Now with a very crowded roster consisting of a young core, proven veterans and LeBron James, Wagner’s role during his rookie campaign remains to be seen, especially since coach Luke Walton is expected to play many variations of small-ball lineups.

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss recently revealed that Wagner was on Los Angeles’ radar for a number of years.

“We’d been tracking him for a couple years now at the University of Michigan, and some of the tournaments he’s played in overseas with his (German) national team commitments. He’s a player that has good size and a very high skill level,” she told Lakers reporter Mike Trudell of NBA.com.

“His has the ability to shoot, pass and handle the ball at that size (6’9’’), which is solid. He’s a high basketball IQ player with a great motor that really runs the floor well. That’s one thing that was definitely attractive. He had this personality when he came in and worked out for us where he showed a lot of toughness and charisma. That’s something that we definitely value as an organization as a whole. Obviously, (GM) Rob (Pelinka) has a connection with the University of Michigan, and he got as much information as possible about Moe before we made that selection. At summer league, I thought he rebounded better than I expected. I thought he showed a knack for getting down there and banging and rebounding better than he did at Michigan,” Buss added.

Although there will absolutely be a learning curve for Wagner, playing alongside LeBron James might allow him to do what he does best: shooting from the perimeter.

Buss addressed the idea, stating “he’s our only guy that can play the five position that can stretch the floor the way he did in college. He didn’t shoot as well in Summer League, but that was a small sample size, of course. I think that’s a natural fit right there. Obviously, LeBron has had a tremendous amount of success having shooters around him in his career. It just gives us a lot of different options, with a lot of bigs who can do different things.”

JaVale McGee and Ivica Zubac are the only other true centers on the team, but neither have Wagner’s perimeter shooting ability. Therefore, in certain situations, the rookie may be called upon, especially alongside James, who rightfully draws so much attention from opposing defenses.

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