After selecting Moe Wagner with the 25th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers touted him as a versatile big man who was capable of defending on the block and in space, and someone who could stretch the floor.
That was prior to free agency, and of course the signing of LeBron James to a four-year contract. Rather than fill out their roster with prototypical spot-up shooters, the Lakers opted for playmakers who could also defend.
President of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka voiced confidence in the roster’s ability to space the floor, even naming Wagner as a capable threat. That has yet to come to fruition, however, as he was thrown off course by a knee contusion suffered during Las Vegas Summer League.
With JaVale McGee a late scratch, Wagner received his first extended opportunity on Sunday against the Washington Wizards. Following the loss, Lakers head coach Luke Walton pointed to added value Wagner has when sharing the floor with James, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“He’s been solid in practice. What he really does a good job of is just playing basketball. Reading, talking, communicating, setting picks. He gives us a stretch-5, especially with LeBron is a nice weapon to have.”
Wagner made five of his seven field goal attempts, including two 3-pointers, en route to scoring 12 points to go along with 3 rebounds in 17 minutes. Wagner tied a career high in rebounds and set new personal-best marks in points and minutes played.
The performance came two weeks after Wagner scored his first NBA points, sending the Lakers bench into a frenzy upon knocking down free throws. The 21-year-old reveled in the moment but said his focus was on building from it and becoming a regular contributor.