Washington Wizards: Wagner and Bonga won’t play for Germany in FIBA World Cup

Washington Wizards Isaac Bonga Moritz Wagner (Photo by Axel Heimken/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Washington Wizards Isaac Bonga Moritz Wagner (Photo by Axel Heimken/picture alliance via Getty Images) /

Two of the newest additions to the Washington Wizards weren’t able to solidify a spot on their national team’s roster for the upcoming FIBA World Tournament.

We’re just one day away from the start of the FIBA Basketball World Cup, and the list of Washington Wizards playing keeps getting shorter and shorter. On Thursday, the German national team announced their final roster for the tournament and there were two noticeable omissions: Moritz Wagner and Isaac Bonga.

Both Wagner and Bonga played with the team this summer in exhibition games, but as the real competition got closer, the new Wizards were thrown by the wayside.

For what it’s worth, Bonga was the final player cut from the German team before finalizing their FIBA World Cup roster. Bonga played with the team as recently as Tuesday of this week (August 27) in an exhibition win over Australia. Wagner, however, was cut on August 18th after a win over the Polish national team.

Even without Bongaand Wagner, the German team does have three players currently on NBA rosters, though: Dennis Schroder of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Daniel Theis of the Boston Celtics and Maxi Kleber of the Dallas Mavericks. Paul Zipser also made the German team, and although he’s most recently played in the EuroLeague, he had a two-season stint with the Chicago Bulls from 2016 to 2018.

With a number of NBA-caliber big men in Thies, Kleber, and Zipser, the German frontcourt could just have been too crowded for Wagner. Center Johannes Voigtman, who also made the German team and was on the Wizards’ radar earlier this summer, is no slouch, either. But even with a crowded and competitive frontcourt, none of Wagner’s competition there is particularly impressive. Two of those four players mentioned are not NBA players. You’d hope Wagner could at least beat out those guys and earn himself some playing time, if not a starting spot. This doesn’t bode well for his ability to make an impact with the Wizards this season. That’s for sure.

Seeing Bonga get cut, especially this close to the tournament is disappointing. However, it might simply be due to Bonga’s age. At 19, Bonga would be the youngest player on the German national team by four years. Their youngest player heading into the FIBA World Cup is 23-year-old shooting guard Andreas Obst. Only two German players (Obst and Ismet Akpinar) are under 25 years old. Wagner is only 22.

For international competition, coherence and chemistry are key. We’ve seen it before when USA teams get beat by less talented but more tenured international squads. Wagner and Bonga getting cut might have less to do with talent and more to do with fitting in with their teammates.

After some lackluster Summer League performances from Wagner and Bonga, maybe they just didn’t do enough to impress the German coaches. They certainly didn’t do a ton to impress Wizards fans during those few games in Las Vegas.

In four Summer League games with the Wizards, Wagner’s defense left a lot to be desired. He didn’t do much on the offensive end, either, shooting just 31 percent from the floor and a god-awful seven percent from behind the arc. While Bonga was solid in Las Vegas, even earning himself a starting spot in two of his three Summer League games, he hardly wowed.

Bonga was slightly more efficient from the field than Wagner, shooting 45 percent, but made zero of his four three-point attempts. Despite both averaging more than 19 minutes per game and playing in the frountcourt, neither were particularly impressive on the glass either. In his four games, Wagner grabbed more than six rebounds just once. In three games, Bonga never did it.

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Heading into the FIBA World Cup, the Germans are ranked 22nd in the FIBA World Rankings but popped up at 12th in FIBA’s most recent power rankings. They may not compete for gold, but the Germans are solid.

We’ll see if they’re missing their other NBA options, Wagner and Bonga, once the action starts.