The Detroit Pistons could find another draft gem in their own backyard

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The Detroit Pistons could find a player locally in Franz Wagner.

The Detroit Pistons can start mining talent in their home state.

One of the most special narratives in sports is the generational talent drafted to their hometown team. The LeBron James and Derrick Rose types don’t come around all that often, but the trajectory of these guys’ careers can leave indelible marks on franchises.

Less discussed is the professional athlete drafted into the same state as the college they played for. Despite the rabid fanbase that college sports instigates, the same passion for keeping these athletes within state lines isn’t nearly as powerful.

Deandre Ayton, for example, was the first overall pick out of Arizona to the Phoenix Suns, but he remains a talented foundational piece outside of the All-Star conversation.

Given the NBA talent that has come out of the college level in Michigan, it’s surprising that the Detroit Pistons have largely avoided drafting from this pool of players. The last in-state player drafted by the franchise was Mateen Cleaves in 2000 after he led Michigan State to a national title.

The most recent marriage of college and pros that looked destined was Michigan guard Trey Burke to Detroit in 2013. But the Pistons opted for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope instead with the eighth selection. Burke was drafted the very next pick.

But in 2021, with a likely early pick in the second round, Wolverines-loving Michiganders may be appeased: Franz Wagner should be on Detroit’s radar in that spot.

Franz Wagner, Detroit Pistons

Franz Wagner #21 of the Michigan Wolverines could be a prospect for the Detroit Pistons (Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images)

Detroit Pistons: Who is Franz Wagner?

Wagner was playing professional basketball in Germany before enrolling at Michigan. He joined the Wolverines at 6-foot-9, 205 pounds, and is already bulked up to 220 for his sophomore season.

After speculation he might be one-and-done, Wagner announced in April that he was returning to Michigan.

Wagner is the brother of another Wolverine great and former first-round pick, Moritz, currently a power forward for the Washington Wizards. The younger Wagner shares a number of traits with his older brother. He’s vocal, brash, energetic, and multi-faceted on the basketball court.

But unlike his brother, 19-year-old Wagner has the versatility to play with or without the ball and adequately guard one through five.

His freshman season, he averaged 11.6 points, 5.6 boards, 1.0 assists, and 1.3 steals on 45-percent shooting per game.

Despite greater offensive depth this year, Wagner overcame a poor start and is registering 12.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.0 steal and 1.3 blocks on 52-percent shooting (over 35 percent from three) per game through 10 contests.

In his last four games, he’s averaged 16.3 points and 6.5 boards a game.

Wagner is sized like a forward, moves like a wing, and is listed as a guard on Michigan’s roster. Before the college and NBA seasons began, draft experts slotted Wagner to be drafted early- to mid-second round in a deep class.

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