After getting injured in Summer League play last season, Mortiz Wagner slowly worked his way back through long rehabilitation stints with the South Bay Lakers. While he didn’t see the floor too often until the last month of the season, his high energy play was infectious to the team despite him still being a fairly raw overall prospect.
While Wagner doesn’t offer elite athleticism for a big man, he has an incredibly high motor and a good feel for the game – two intangible aspects you just can’t teach. If the more technical/fundamental aspects of Wagner’s game come around, he could be a very solid contributor for the Lakers for years to come.
So what exactly does Wagner need to improve on this offseason and beyond?
Lakers’ Moritz Wagner Areas to Improve: Outside Shooting
This is the biggest and most obvious improvement that Wagner needs to make in order to find steady minutes in the NBA. He was a fantastic shooter at Michigan and his potential to stretch the floor as a big-bodied center is what made him an appealing prospect, to begin with. Last season he only shot a paltry 29% from deep and will need to drastically improve on that in order to contribute positive minutes for the Lakers.
Lakers’ Moritz Wagner Areas to Improve: Rebounding
Wagner only averaged 6.9 rebounds per 36 minutes last season, albeit in limited minutes. While the Lakers have a number of plus rebounders who can help lighten the load, he needs to get better at putting a solid body on his man and getting after the ball on the boards. Wagner isn’t a good enough athlete to get out in transition and stretch the floor but doesn’t need to be – the Lakers already have James, Lonzo Ball, and Kyle Kuzma.
Instead, he can offer his most value by getting after things on the defensive glass and helping to neutralize second-chance points. The Lakers were gouged by easy offensive rebounds last season and allowed the seventh most second-chance points per game in the entire NBA.
Lakers’ Moritz Wagner Areas to Improve: Perimeter Defense
While as a big man you might think that headline should read INTERIOR defense, hear me out on this one. I promise it makes a bit of sense.
Especially as he sees more playing time, Moritz Wagner is going to get switched onto guards and picked on more and more. He isn’t the quickest on his feet and is going to be an easy target and weak link on the defensive end. He’s already showed to be a surprisingly competent interior defender (though could still use some work) despite his relative lack of athleticism and strength, adding a perimeter defense to his game should actually make him a fairly passable, well-rounded defender.
Elite players in the NBA love forcing defenses to switch and pick apart mismatches and if Wagner can improve a bit in this area, he can go a long ways towards helping to shore up what was at times a horrendous defensive unit last season in Los Angeles.