NBA Draft Roundup: Wilson, Wagner invited to NBA Draft Combine

Orion Sang

Redshirt sophomore forward DJ Wilson and sophomore forward Moritz Wagner each received invitations to the NBA Draft Combine, while Derrick Walton Jr. is on the alternate list.

A full list of combine invitations can be found at Draft Express.

The Combine will be the latest step in the process of testing the draft waters for both Wilson and Wagner. Taking place from May 9-14, the event gives prospects the chance to conduct workouts and undergo interviews for NBA teams.

Because neither Wilson nor Wagner have signed with an agent, both still have the option of returning to school. The deadline to withdraw from the draft is May 24, which means that the feedback Wilson and Wagner receive from teams at the Combine may play an important role in influencing their decision.

Otherwise, both players are free to undergo pre-draft workouts with teams throughout this period. A tweet from the Utah Jazz’s PR department indicated that Wilson — and Zak Irvinworked out for the team on April 29.

Recent mock drafts have displayed a varied range when it comes to projecting a landing spot for Wilson and Wagner.

Ricky O’Donnell of SBNation predicted the first round last week and had Wilson off the board at No. 11 to the Charlotte Hornets — the highest Wilson has gone out of the more well-known mock drafts.

Wilson is currently projected to go No. 34 on DraftExpress, so yes, this is the most ambitious projection of this mock. But hear me out: Zach Collins feels redundant with Cody Zeller on the roster, as does OG Anunoby with Nicolas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist already entrenched. Wilson offers a rare combination of shooting and shot blocking in an athletic 6’10, 240-pound frame. He could be a riser after the combine.

In DraftExpress’ most recent update, Wilson has slid down one spot in the second round to the Orlando Magic at pick No. 35, while Wagner did not make their projection.

Jeremy Woo and Sports Illustrated updated their Big Board on April 20, which ranks their Top 40 prospects. Both Wilson and Wagner made the cut, at No. 23 and No. 34, respectively.

Here’s what Woo had to say about Wilson:

Wilson’s path from under-recruited high schooler to little-used bench player to a starring role this season is a real credit to Michigan’s player development. He broke out in March and looked like a sleeper prospect all season, with great physical attributes, a nice shooting stroke and increasing comfort attacking the basket as a secondary scorer. He’s lithe and could beef up a bit, but also a solid lateral defender and weakside shot-blocker who could pan out into a prototypical, modern stretch-four in time. Wilson’s season was up and down, but his high points were often eye-popping. His rebounding and commitment to banging on the inside are the central questions.

And later on Wagner:

The German big man pulled his skill package together in the tourney and was impressive at utilizing his mismatch as a face-up four. He’s comfortable shooting the ball, young for his class and would be a nice value selection in this range if he stays in the draft. Wagner’s game isn’t especially well-rounded: his rebounding must improve, he’ll have to learn to play consistently against size, and defensive improvement and physical development will be critical. There’s some risk here. but his best flashes this season point to considerable potential as a scorer.

In Chad Ford’s latest mock draft at ESPN, he has both Wagner and Wilson going in the first round — Wagner to the Jazz at No. 24, and Wilson to the Spurs at No. 29. Here’s what he had to say about both prospects:

Wagner impressed a lot of NBA scouts down the stretch, especially in an NCAA tournament game against Louisville when he dropped 26 points. He’s a skilled big man who can stretch the floor and play in the post, and he’s just six months older than Markkanen, a prospect with similar skills. Wagner is really good value at this point in the draft.

Wilson has the physical tools to be a terrific stretch-4 in the league. He’s a great athlete who can shoot the 3 and protect the rim. It feels like he’s just scratching the surface of what he could become someday.

Aside from one or two outliers, it appears that both Wilson and Wagner are in the thick of things at the end of the first round, with Wilson usually slotted above his teammate. Their Combine performances could go a long ways toward moving them into a comfortable spot — or a not so comfortable one.

Either way, the testing, drills and workouts in Chicago will have a significant impact on their decision whether to withdraw by May 24 or keep their names in the pool.

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  • AC1997

    I sincerely hope the two of them surround themselves with good people who will help them make this difficult decision with as much logic as emotion. I’ve watched NBA drafts for my entire life and especially in the last few years you can see those fringe first round picks ending up in obscurity. Wilson and Wagner might sneak into the first round, and they might stick on a roster early in their career. But both are still very unpolished and will likely spend the next few years hovering between the DNP-CD, NBDL, and a few minutes per game. Look at some of the big name picks still trying to find minutes around the league. (Interesting opportunity for content on this site.)

    Why not take advantage of one more year of growth at Michigan where you’re going to play 30+ minutes on a good team for a good coach and use that to boost your stock? Just my 2-cents, and I’m not the one getting to work out for NBA teams and seeing my name in mock drafts.

    • MAZS

      The common fallacy I see is the assumption that 1st round projects would develop more with another year of college. That may even be true for some. But NBA teams undoubtedly believe they are better equipped to develop those same players. And what the NBA thinks rules—thats why we have the one-and-done.

      • AC1997

        I don’t disagree with what you’re saying. I also realize that it has to be very difficult to be in their shoes with people telling you that they see you on an NBA roster next year picking up a check. No doubt all candidates have enough confidence in themselves to think they’ll be the late-round pick who will develop into a contributor.

        My point was that they know what is in store for them at Michigan. They’re going to be getting big minutes, have a large stage, be the focal point of the team, and have a coach with a great recent history of developing NBA draft picks. This isn’t a situation where they aren’t being used correctly by their coach, there’s a new coach coming in, they’re on a bad team, or there is some hot-shot recruit coming to take their minutes.

        I guess I’d say it like this – maybe they turn out to be GR3 or Hardaway and get drafted as a fringe prospect but earn their way into a rotation. Learn from those guys. But also talk to guys like Darius Morris and Manny Harris – people that were expected to be late first round picks, fell in the draft, and then have spent the last few years playing in the NBDL trying to get a sniff of the NBA.

      • Coltrane

        I’d be interested in what resources the NBA invests in development. Everything I read about the NBDL doesnt make it sound like much but I really don’t know.

        • MAZS

          You seriously believe that NBA teams don’t invest more in their “1st round projects” than college teams? The Developmental League is far from their only resource.

          • Coltrane

            I believe I said I’d be interested in what they invest. I know a couple of guys that played in the D League before going overseas. No, they weren’t first rounders, that’s why I said I’d be interested.

  • bobohle

    I’m thinking Wilson goes and Moe comes back and we really will need Mo Bamba then.

    • Indiana_Matt

      I could see that happening. I am not holding my breath on getting Bamba, though. But if we don’t get him I guess there will be opportunity for our other young big guys to step up around Moe. Would love to see Wilson back but if he can get paid, you can’t knock the decision.

  • AC1997

    This once again reinforces my belief that the NCAA should adopt either the hockey or baseball draft rules for basketball. It makes roster management tricky for coaches, but it overall will benefit everyone:
    — Players can come back to school if they don’t like where they are drafted
    — Quality of NCAA games will improve with more kids staying longer
    — NBA gets to use the NCAA as more of a minor league and thus develop more kids rather than having to keep them on their bench or hope the NBDL works okay
    — NCAA viewership may increase since NBA fans can watch their draft picks while still in college

    The NCAA already has two blueprints in their other sports for how it could potentially work….it should be a relatively easy thing to figure out.

  • Justin

    I really don’t see the scouts liking Wilson over Wagner. In fact I don’t even think it’s close for me. Wagner shot a higher percentage from 2 and 3, and if you compare per 40 numbers also out rebounded Wilson. Add to the fact that Wagner is a full year plus younger and it’s a no brainer. That said neither rebounds well enough, Wilson is extremely soft, and Wagner fouls far too much and forces things a bit too much. Both could benefit from an extra year without question but there’s also lots of risk in coming back for both guys. Certainly not an easy decision but hopefully the combine pushes them fully in one direction or the other and doesn’t leave them as bubble 1st round guys.

    • AC1997

      I think they both have a lot to work on before they could contribute at the NBA. The issue is that the NBA loves to draft based on potential. I think they see Wilson as a 6’10” combo wing who can shoot and is athletic. (I personally think he needs to improve his handle, his rebounding, and his ability to create his own shot to be a wing in the NBA.) In Wagner I think they see him as being a bit small to play center even in today’s NBA so he’s a PF, in which they don’t see him being as athletic as Wilson. I think Wagner needs to improve his athleticism, rebounding, and physicality to contribute in the NBA.

      I’d love to see both tackle those improvements playing 30mpg for Michigan than in the NBDL.