Magic’s Franz Wagner continues to thrive as a cutter

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			Magic’s Franz Wagner continues to thrive as a cutter
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For Franz Wagner, there couldn’t have been a more fitting way to seal the Orlando Magic’s 94-90 Tuesday win over the Golden State Warriors.

Not the 3 free throws that gave the Magic a 92-88 lead with 13 seconds left, but the dunk off a cut on a sideline out-of-bounds play 7 seconds later to seal it.

“The play was for me to catch the ball and shoot free throws and I saw [Klay Thompson] kind of overplay me,” Wagner said. “I saw Chuma [Okeke] seeing that, too.”

How the play developed — off a cut — captured where Wagner excels regardless of his role in the offense or usage as a ball-handler.

The Magic scored 1.58 points per possession on Wagner’s cuts heading into Wednesday’s road matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder, according to NBA.com. That ranked in the 95th percentile compared to the rest of the league.

Wagner takes advantage of defenders who take their eyes off him with cuts, or overplay to deny the initial passing lane.

“The one thing that’s great about Franz is he does a great job on and off the ball,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said. “His ability to handle the pick-and-roll as well as cut on the backside of it has helped out so much as he continues to watch the game.”

Wagner’s offensive usage has altered significantly depending on player availability.

When the Magic were dealing with multiple injuries and COVID-19-related absences through December and January, Wagner was running more isolations and pick-and-rolls as the ball-handler. He excelled at getting to the rim as well as making plays for others.

Now, with more ball-handling guards playing, Wagner has been taken on more off-ball responsibilities — spotting up, being used as the roll man in pick-and-rolls and cutting.

“That’s part of the growth — for guys to understand it’s not about just being in the pick-and-roll,” Mosley said. “It’s about how do I play basketball outside of it, how do I get my teammates involved on a back screen, how do I move, how do I cut, how do I make something open up on the outside versus just having the basketball in my hands.”

As Mosley sees it, the diverse offensive usage is more beneficial for younger players to develop compared to being used a couple of different ways.

“The reality of it is we’re trying to develop these guys into basketball players,” Mosley said. “Not pick-and-roll players. Not post-up players. We’re trying to develop them into real basketball players and that comes into play with off-ball, on-ball, back screens, diving, cutting — all of that.”

Wendell Catrter Jr. (sprained left wrist and ankle), Markelle Fultz (left knee injury management) and Jalen Suggs (bone bruise in right ankle) were sidelined for Wednesday.

Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander also sat in a matchup between teams that entered Wednesday with two of the league’s bottom-four records.

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Price at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.

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