Michigan’s Moritz Wagner did everything to help himself last week at the Big Ten Tournament at Madison Square Garden.
The 6’11” forward averaged 15.8 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting 49 percent from the field in the tourney, earning Most Outstanding Player honors and propelling his team to a second consecutive Big Ten Championship, all in four days.
All while his family flew in from Berlin to watch his son play, most wearing Brooklyn Nets caps ... according to fans nearby.
… Wait what?
We are even told, his mother, Beate, was seen wearing Nets gear to the Big Ten Tournament on Saturday, the day of the semifinals where Michigan took down Michigan State, 75-64.
And that wasn’t all. At one point Saturday, a prerecorded Q and A. with Wagner showed up on the scoreboard above the Garden floor. He was asked which New York team he roots for. Easy question. “The Nets,” said Wagner, with no hesitation.
Nets fans noticed. Said one Michigan alum in attendance, “I was at the game and was jumping up and down in my nosebleed seats when that came on the screen. Go Nets, Go Blue!”
So is it pre-ordained?
As far as the athlete goes, “Moe” Wagner’s a much improved, young stretch 4, something Sean Marks and his staff may very well be looking to add to Brooklyn when the Draft comes back to Barclays Center on June 21.
While relatively new, Net ties to Wagner run deep ... beyond the obvious need, a desire to fill it, and that the Nets already have Michigan alums Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert, the latter his teammate in 2015-16 already on their roster. All were developed by current Wolverine head coach John Beilein.
Then, there’s his time on Germany’s national teams. Wagner won gold at the 2014 under-18 European Championships and was Germany’s leading scorer at the 2017 Under-20 European Championships. Until this year, Nets assistant Chris Fleming was head coach of the German senior national team. Just sayin’.
Last year, the Nets liked him enough to interview him at the Pre-Draft Combine in Chicago then later, before he pulled out of the Draft, work him out at HSS Training Center. It’s not known what they might have told him about his prospects, but considering all that gear and his answer up on the scoreboard, the Nets must have made some impression.
It’s not known if the Nets would’ve actually taken him at 22, 27 (if they had kept it) or at any point in the second round, but he obviously was on their radar, and as his stock rises, along with his game, the possibility will continue to be a fan focus (at least) moving forward.
Sean Marks has surprised —and done well— in his first two drafts, LeVert in 2016 and Jarrett Allen in 2017. Draftniks didn’t project either anywhere near Brooklyn. (However, the Isaiah Whitehead second round selection of ’16 had previously been reported as a very likely possibility, according to our own Dexter Henry … And obviously that happened.)
As far as current draft stock goes, and do with it what you will, Wagner is 30th on nbadraft.net’s mock, which would make him an Atlanta Hawk as of now and way down at No. 55 on ESPN’s board. The Nets’ first-rounder from the Toronto Raptors is currently at 28 and they have the 41st and 44th as well. So Wagner is well within their range.
And as we know, the only mock that matters is the one kept under lock-and-key (plus some password protection) on the team’s computers at HSS. Brooklyn had both LeVert and Allen much higher than 20 and 22, where they were selected, on their big boards those two years. Rumor has it that the Nets saw both as lottery picks, LeVert at No. 11 and Allen even higher.
Wagner? Who knows other than a few Nets insiders? He has certain skill sets the Nets could use. He is big, more athletic than you think, can shoot out to the three point line and is very young for his class. Although this is his junior year, he’s only 20. Then, there’s that character/intelligence thing that the Nets like so much and was on display Sunday at The Garden ...
In 33 games this season, Wagner is averaging 14.5 points and 7.1 rebounds, up from 12.1 points and 4.2 rebounds as a sophomore, which was his first season of serious minutes (23.9 per game).
Wagner, who now logs just over 27 minutes per contest, is shooting 53% from the field and 39.6% from three. He’s a career 38.5% shooter from deep, hitting 100-of-260 from beyond the arc over 101 games played at the U of M.
Nets gotta like that.
There were other players at the Big Ten Tournament, too. One of whom got familiar with Barclays Center on November 20 and 21, Penn State’s guard Tony Carr.
Carr, a 6-foot-5 combo guard, broke out for 31 points and four steals back then in a 98-87 loss to Texas A&M on the second day of the Progressive Legends Classic, one of his finest performances this season. The true sophomore also memorably dropped 28 points, capped-off by a game-winning three, in an 82-79 victory over then number-13 ranked Ohio State on the road on January 25.
At the Big Ten Tournament last week, Carr pushed the seven-seeded Nittany Lions to the semifinals, where they lost to a more talented Purdue squad. Carr averaged 25 points in wins over Northwestern and Ohio State (again) before finishing with only 12 against the Boilermakers. In the three games, Carr also averaged 7.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists en route to All-Tournament honors.
Carr was named to both the Big Ten All-Freshman and All-Conference Honorable Mention squads last season. In 2017-18 he’s up from 13.2 points per game to 19.9 despite his minutes only increasing from a team-high 32.8 as a freshman to 34.9 as a sophomore. Carr also posts 4.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists per night. His three-point percentage is also way up from 32% to 46% this year.
Carr currently projects as a second round pick on nbadraft.net.
As Mike Scotto points out, there were a couple of others on display at the Garden who might intrigue Marks. Keita Bates-Diop, the Big Ten Player of the Year, is a little older than Wagner and Carr. The 22-year-old is a 6’7” small forward who can shoot and run ... and score. He’s averaged 19.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 1.7 assists, and 1.0 steals per game for the Buckeyes. He’s projected at 22, higher than where the Nets pick.
The Nets scouts have been all over the tournaments floating through Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden. They don’t advertise it, but they’re there. Multiple college teams have used HSS to train for those tournaments. (Alas, the practices are closed to NBA scouts.)
Representatives of Illinois, Florida State, North Carolina State, Boston College and Notre Dame couldn’t resist tweeting out images of their teams and that view from the ninth floor.
Practice: Brooklyn style. pic.twitter.com/EvHWmHVZ10— NC State Men's Bball (@PackMensBball) March 6, 2018
Practice today for @FSUHoops is at the @BrooklynNets facility as the #noles prepare for Wednesday's #ACCTournament game against @LouisvilleMBB on @espn at noon pic.twitter.com/CCr9RF1YXs— FSU Men's Hoops (@FSUHoops) March 6, 2018
It sure is nice to play in New York ... right, Moe?