Many were surprised when the Los Angeles Lakers selected Michigan’s Moritz Wagner with the 25th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. After all, Wagner was projected by most to fall into the second round and rumored target Mitchell Robinson was still on the board.
However, Wagner quieted those rumblings with his strong play during the Las Vegas Summer League. While he didn’t shoot the ball as well as he would have liked, Wagner still showed flashes of the range that makes him an ideal big in the modern NBA.
Before the draft, most of the concerns about Wagner’s transition to the NBA centered around his ability to defend at a high level, and he did what he could to address the issue in Las Vegas. With determination to prove his doubters wrong, Wagner hauled in eight rebounds while notching an impressive 1.3 blocks and 2.7 steals during his Summer League play.
Unfortunately, Wagner suffered a knee and ankle injury in Las Vegas that limited him to just three appearances. Even worse, the injury has lingered and caused him to not be ready to fully participate in training camp with the Lakers.
He was then ruled out for the entirety of preseason. Already thin at the center position, Wagner’s absence makes it all the more likely that the Lakers will employ a lot of small-ball to start the season.
When he does return, Wagner will find himself playing catch up, making up for the time he lost sitting on the sidelines. It would appear that a G League stint will be all but a certainty, but the Lakers are concerned about the long-haul with Wagner.
He will be given time to fully recover and eventually prove that he can be the workhorse that he looked to be during his college days and time with the Summer League team.
Fans may have to be patient, but Wagner is the kind of player who could pay off down the road.
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