Orlando Magic rookie Jonathan Isaac has spent the majority of his rookie season on injured reserve. The forward suffered an ankle injury early on in the season and came back for a brief stint at one point. However, he reaggravated the injury and was out even longer. Fortunately, Isaac’s return will be this week. Thus, some expectations come with it.
What to Expect from Jonathan Isaac’s Return
With such a long layoff, Isaac will likely struggle in his first few games back. In fact, teammates Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic spent their first few games back shaking off their own rust. So there’s no need for concern if Isaac spends some time readjusting. As a matter of fact, Isaac played two conditioning games with the Lakeland Magic for that reason.
Isaac’s Lakeland Stint
Jonathan Isaac only played two games with Orlando’s G-League affiliate, the Lakeland Magic. It wasn’t the expectation to keep him there long. However, there is a good deal to look at from those two games.
Firstly, his shooting still looks pretty rough. He shot 2-6 and 3-8 in both games, respectively. Of the three 3-point shots he attempted, none landed. His shot selection was poor too. Many of his shots came when he was under too much pressure. Additionally, he attempted low-chance shots by taking faders or shooting for 3 when that isn’t his strength.
Ultimately, that’s fine though. A player can’t get back into the swing of things without getting their mind sharp again by taking chances. Getting him to make those plays in action again was the whole point of sending him down.
However, other areas still looked concerning. He averaged 5 rebounds a game with Lakeland. With a minutes restriction, that’s not too bad. But his real weakness was his level of aggression. He didn’t contribute offensively on several of Lakeland’s positive runs and was more passive on defense than he was earlier in the season. Moreover, he committed several turnovers in his two games with Orlando’s development team. If he’s going to be a major contributor with the Magic, he’ll need to get mentally sharp again.
Isaac is expected to get some minutes in Orlando’s matchup against the Detroit Pistons. With that, Magic fans should expect similar play to what they say from Lakeland. It’s going to take a few games for Isaac to get back on course. He’ll likely see some minutes restriction too. Additionally, Isaac’s passive play could be the result of staying gentle on a recently healed ankle. His body will need to readjust just as much as his mind.
How Isaac will Play
So, Isaac will likely not be performing as well as he was at the start of the season. The expectation is that he’ll really struggle offensively. His shot selection and general shooting ability will progressively get better as he plays more games and gets more minutes. However, even then, Isaac’s strengths aren’t in his offensive game.
Where Isaac can immediately show his skill again upon returning is his defense. Again, Isaac will probably play a little passively his first few games back. That will be making sure he is physically reacquainting himself with NBA play. However, mentally, he can and will shortly get back to making savvy defensive plays. Staying aggressive and smart is something Isaac has the ability to immediately get back to.
Isaac’s return is big for the Magic. He’ll bring back some much needed defense and young energy to what has been an unmotivated roster. How he plays now will be a huge look into how the team will look for next season.