Franz Wagner is establishing himself as one of the most dangerous rookies in the league after an extremely impressive month of December.
As the leading rookie scorer, Franz Wagner has launched himself into this year’s top-tier rookie talent. When the Orlando Magic hosted two top-8 draft picks in 2021, many focused on their 5th overall selection of Jalen Suggs. However, the standout selection has certainly been Wagner thus far. Granted, Suggs is currently sidelined with a fractured thumb. Nonetheless, Wagner has stepped up to the plate for a struggling Magic squad.
Furthermore, at just 20-years-old, the German native has started every single one of the Magic’s 39 games. Despite the young age, this talented rookie displays proven experience fostered at the University of Michigan. Consequently, Wagner’s seamless transition to the NBA is precisely what the Orlando Magic needed after dismantling their core last year.
Although the Magic overall have struggled, Wagner has done everything in his power to carry Orlando’s depleted roster. So much so, the rookie earned the eastern conference rookie of the month honors over the #1, #3, and #4 overall picks, Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, and Scottie Barnes, respectively. Whereas the western conference awarded their honors to Thunder rookie Josh Giddey for the second straight month.
Among all these talented rookies, one candidate shall ultimately emerge as the standalone recipient of the Rookie of the Year trophy. To this point, it could be anyones for the taking. Although Wagner is not a household name, his performances in December might just put him on the map.
Franz Wagner: December’s Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month
As a draft prospect, Wagner received wide acclamation as a scoring swingman. While his offensive numbers are great and will be addressed, his lesser-appreciated defensive capabilities deserve some credit too. As a 6’9″ 220-pound forward, Wagner perfectly embodies the modern versatile big. Additionally, his size allows him to easily switch onto almost anyone. As a result, Wagner’s wingspan and active hands have given him the second-most steals by any rookie so far. In December specifically, Wagner recorded just over one steal per game and a block every two games.
These may not be other-worldly numbers, but they are noteworthy for a young, offensive-minded player. Speaking of offense, man, can this Wagner kid score. So much so, on December 28th, Wagner outscored everyone on the court, which is especially impressive when facing the defending NBA Champions and Giannis Antetokounmpo. With 38 points on 12/20 shooting from the field, 4/8 shooting from deep, and a perfect 10/10 from the free-throw line, Franz Wagner not only racked up points but did so in an efficient manner as well.
Furthermore, Wagner maintained his high-level production throughout the entire month of December and beyond. In every single one of the Magic’s 14 games throughout December, Wagner reached double-digit scoring. Wagner also surpassed the 20 point mark in half of those outings. In fact, his scoring streak has extended into the new year, with it now sitting at 21 consecutive games. Moreover, Franz Wagner has just five games on the entire season with fewer than 10 points.
Overall, Wagner’s December averages are as follows: 11 games, 34 mpg, 19.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.1 spg, 47.6 FG%, 40.4 3PT%, 88.89 FT%.
Franz Wagner vs. Other Rookies in December
In comparison, Wagner outscored all other rookies by a staggering 112 points in December (273). Additionally, the German rookie posted the fifth-most rebounds (72), tied for the third-most total assists (44), and tied for the second-most made three-pointers as well (19). To further evaluate Wagner’s month against other rookies, here are other rookies’ breakdowns for December.
Josh Giddey: 10 games, 31.3 mpg, 11.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 6.7 apg, 38.3 FG%, 22.5 3PT%, and 64.7 FT%
Evan Mobley: 11 games, 33 mpg, 14.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.9 bpg, 49.6 FG%, 35.7 3PT%, and 81.5 FT%
Scottie Barnes: 7 games, 37.9 mpg, 16.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.6 bpg, 51.7 FG%, 36 3PT%, and 71.4 FT%
Cade Cunningham: 9 games, 34 mpg, 17.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 6.3 apg, 1.7 spg, 41.8 FG%, 40.4 3PT%, and 85.7 FT%
While all these players are relatively close to Wagner, his month was enough to edge out the competition. Given that each conference earns a designation, arguing who is the overall best may be unnecessary. However, it is somewhat evident that Giddey’s month was not on the same level as Wagner, especially regarding efficiencies. Therefore, it is fair to say that during December, Franz Wagner was not just the best rookie in the east but for the entire NBA as well.
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