At this point, few pundits seem to be quite optimistic about Mo Wagner’s NBA career. Yet to me, it seems that the low expectation/pressure high minutes opportunity environement the 2019-20 Wizards will surely deliver to its uniform bearers seems like a God-sent gift for the Michigan alum.
Mo Wagner won’t turn 23 until the end of the season. He’s starting his second pro season (to be precise he did actually play a couple games in Alba Berlin in 2014-15, so one might consider this his third season). What does a player at this stage need the most? Last year, Reuven Barel from Hoops.co.il asked Luca Doncic that exact question. His answer was simple: ``As a young player, I would like to get minutes”.
Simple. The “M” word will likely be tossed around quite a lot this coming season, but at the end of the day there are exactly 240 minutes to be passed around and there are going to be about 20 hungry guys fighting for them.
How high in the pecking order will Mo be? This remains to be seen. Let me focus on what are the keys, in my opinion, to Mo climbing towards a regular starter status on the Wizards.
Efficiency, efficiency. Bigs nowadays are expected to get things done efficiently. Mo was a very efficient 3-point shooter in college, edging 40 percent in his last two Wolverine seasons, and doing so with rather high volume: over 4 attempts in his last year in college. This dropped quite a bit in his year with the Lakers (around 28 percent) and understandably so; playing with LeBron is not the most stress-free task in the world. On the rebuilding Wizards there will be no excuses for not improving this to at least 35 percent on about 3 attempts per game. As a floor spacer he will also need to learn to do the “little things”: the art of P&R and cutting with Beal, the give-and-go move Beal likes so much (he should go back and watch film of the beautiful Beal and Gortat give-and-go bounce pass move), learning where his teammates like to get their shots and accordingly screen assisting. Last but not least: Mo can learn from teammate Thomas Bryant on improving efficiency near the rim.
Advanced stats. I already touched on three-point and screen assists. Aside from those, I think the most volunerable part of Mo’s game is actually on the defensive end. Rebounds, boxing out, switching 1-through-4 and being at least some of sort of presence under the rim.
Leadership. Some of us remember vivdly how Mo carried a mediocre Michigan team all the way to the finals in 2018. In the semis he had 15 rebounds and 24 points in an unforgettable performance. Can he replicate this type of leadership on a young Wizards team?
Trust from Brooks. This goes back to the “M” word. Mo from Michigan needs Minutes, Scotty!