The 2017-18 Wolverine roster looks radically different with a pair of potential pros in the front court than without. The thought of losing four starters from the 2016-17 roster probably keeps John Beilein up at night, but it’s tough to judge how valuable are Wilson and Wagner to the NBA right now.
Both players said they hadn’t weighed their options after last weekend’s loss to Oregon, but they will certainly start to evaluate them with the season in the books.
Players have until April 23rd to declare for the NBA Draft. If they don’t sign an agent, they have until May 24th to withdraw their name and retain NCAA eligibility. The NBA Draft combine, which is invite-only, runs May 9th through 14th in Chicago, but players are also able to participate in workouts with individual teams beginning in late April.
Last year, 162 players declared early, but 91 withdrew from the draft and returned to college. Unlike in previous iterations of the early entry rule, there’s no limit to how many times a player can ‘test the waters’.
Here’s a rundown of Moritz Wagner and DJ Wilson’s draft stock.
Chad Ford’s in-or-out column, updated on March 24th, categorizes DJ Wilson as a player with ‘one foot out the door’, a status that is meant to imply that he’s leaning toward entering the draft.
Ford also wrote that Wilson’s stock is ‘holding steady’ after the Sweet 16.
Wilson shot the ball well for Michigan, going 4-for-8 from beyond the arc against Oregon. He added six boards, two steals and two blocks and really showed off his athletic versatility.
But scouts continue to question his toughness and his readiness for the NBA. Most think he needs another year of school. But if he declares, he’s got a good shot of landing in the late first round to early second round.
I’d like to think that NBA scouts are smart enough to evaluate based on 38 games of film rather than two or three, but most of what we saw from DJ Wilson’s tournament performances mirrored his seasonal trends. He showed intriguing potential with the ability to block shots and stretch the floor. He also had moments where he got pushed around, missed easy baskets around the basket and botched easy rebounding opportunities.
This breakdown by Mike Schmitz of Draft Express does a good job of illustrating some of those trends:
Over at NBA.com, David Aldridge chimes in on Wilson’s rising draft stock as well:
The 6-foot-10 sophomore forward has been just as eye-opening as Walton, with “stretch four” written all over him. He was lights out in postseason play, shooting 32 of 50 on 3-pointers combined in the Big 10 and NCAA tournaments — including 5 of 9 against Oklahoma State and 5 of 10 against Louisville in the second round. He could test the Draft waters if he wanted by putting his name into the Draft; he’d have 10 days to pull out after the Chicago pre-Draft combine ends May 14 and go back to Michigan for his junior season.
It’s hard to disagree with Aldridge’s take: declaring for the draft without an agent is probably the best move for Wilson. There’s literally nothing to lose by working out for NBA teams and potentially getting an invite to the combine. There’s also a chance that he catches the eye of an eager team and could slide into the first round based on his potential.
- NBA Draft.net 2018: #33
- ESPN: #24
Moritz Wagner’s draft stock doesn’t appear to be quite as universal as Wilson’s. Some scouts, including Chad Ford, have been raving about Wagner, but he’s not even ranked in the Draft Express top-100.
Even Ford’s rosy takes on Wagner’s stock took a hit after he struggled against Oregon:
Wagner was the NBA scout darling of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament after he dropped 26 points on 11-for-14 shooting against Louisville. He had a much harder time against Oregon’s Jordan Bell. Facing a strong, physical, athletic shot blocker, he often rushed his shots and seemed out of sorts the entire game. He ended with seven points and five rebounds in 24 minutes and missed all four of the 3s he took.
It’s just one game, but it definitely cooled some scouts who were adamant last weekend that he’s a lock for the first round. He still might be. He’s just 19 and has all the skills NBA teams look for in a stretch 4. But after Thursday’s performance, you could make the argument that he needs another year to add strength. There are a lot of Jordan Bell types in the NBA.
Here’s the NBA Draft.net take on Wagner’s NCAA Tournament showing:
Michigan has pulled off a wild March run and one could focus on just how well Derrick Walton and DJ Wilson have played as well, but Wagner’s game against Louisville was a hugely impressive offensive performance. The big man from Germany showed an ability to stretch the floor, attack closeouts and has been great in the pick-and-roll. He had 26 points on 11-14 FG, showing some pretty unique athleticism and agility at his size.
Wagner showed great improvement as a sophomore while he and Wilson have become two deadly offensive players that can stretch the floor. It still seems like the best course for Wagner would be to work on a few aspects of his game before taking the leap to the pros. His rebounding has not been good and while he has a solid steal percentage, he can certainly improve his defensive awareness as well. He lacks ideal speed and athleticism and will need to continue to develop as a shooter in order to make up for this. What the tournament showed is that there is a possible NBA upside for Wagner and he is someone to keep an eye on.
We’re well familiar with Wagner’s weaknesses as a draft prospect. His consistency has been hit-or-miss at times, especially on the road, and his defensive abilities are lacking. He might be tailor made for the NBA on offense, but I’m not sure that he could guard many five-men in the NBA at this point.
On the contrary, those 31 minutes of film against Louisville exist. There aren’t many prospects at 6-foot-11, 240 who show that sort of skill on that big of a stage. NBA scouts won’t forget that showing and it’ll draw them to Wagner’s ridiculous offensive potential.
A NBA evaluation can be invaluable — just ask Caleb Swanigan — but the consensus seems to be that Wagner isn’t quite as intriguing as DJ Wilson to NBA scouts as things stand today.
One name that hasn’t earned as much NBA buzz is Derrick Walton. Walton’s incredible March run has played him onto the radar with NBA teams that are intrigued by the ability of small point guards like Yogi Ferrell and Tim Frazier to make an impact in the NBA.
He saved his best for last, playing brilliantly against Oklahoma State in the first round (26 points, 11 assists), and led the Wolverines to a Sweet 16 appearance before their storybook postseason run ended in a one-point loss to Oregon. Walton wasn’t on a lot of Draft boards at the start of the season, but he’s changing that. And, in an era where small guards can now flourish, he will surely get a real chance to shine in Summer League and beyond.