Jonathan Isaac was an interesting pick for Orlando to take 6th overall in the 2017 NBA draft. He’s drawn comparisons to budding superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, who the league has fallen in love with. The Orlando Magic, like anyone else, are now looking for their own “Greek Freak”. It’s no coincidence that current Magic General Manager John Hammond is the man who drafted Giannis in 2013. However, Jonathan Isaac’s rookie season has been mired in disappointment due to injuries.
Looking at Jonathan Isaac’s Rookie Season
Jonathan Isaac has incredible physical gifts. He has the ideal physique for a basketball player. Additionally, he came into the NBA with some established skill sets. Good reasons exist to compare Isaac to Giannis. But are they realistic, or have the Magic drafted a prospect who just looks the part?
Analyzing Isaac’s Skill Sets
One thing about Isaac is certain- he has the physical tools to be a great basketball player. He just looks like one. Isaac possesses all the length and body dimensions of a modern NBA player. Additionally, that helps Orlando fill a major need. Orlando has spent the last few years building a team that doesn’t fit where the NBA is going. With Isaac, they seem to be going in the right direction.
However, there are some major concerns that detract from the comparisons to Giannis. Particularly, his offensive skills raise some red flags.
Isaac’s injury woes have been an issue for most of the season. Unfortunately, that means there really isn’t much to analyze. Isaac wasn’t being given a ton of scoring opportunities before being hurt. But his 40% field goal percentage isn’t good at all. Especially since many of those shots were on easier opportunities very close to the rim.
Isaac may have one of the most modern physiques for today’s NBA, but he doesn’t have the offensive instincts. DraftExpress notes He’s very much not a playmaker and has an inconsistent jump shot from most areas, which makes him a weak isolation player. In other words, Isaac’s offense will probably need to rely on driving to the rim. This could be problematic, given his more slender build.
All those offensive weaknesses turn out to ultimately be okay. A look at his other strengths shows why. Isaac can handle the ball well for such a long forward. Despite his weak frame, he’s an efficient cutter and can find ways to the rim without powering through defenses. Currently, his isolation game is weak. But his footwork has shown potential for getting points near the rim and helping the offense on pick and rolls.
Isaac’s real value isn’t even seen until he’s on the defensive end, though. It’s really difficult to assess Isaac’s defensive stats through just 15 games. However, he has a defensive points saved score of 9.37, which is decent for how long he has played.
Isaac had a late growth spurt in life, so he developed himself over several positions even through college. This factor gives him incredible versatility, especially on defense, as he can realistically guard any position. His quick feet and defensive awareness make him valuable for switches and coverage. This was apparent in his NBA debut against the Miami Heat.
Jonathan Isaac’s Rookie Season Marred by Injury
For Magic fans, it seems like forever ago the team had Isaac available. The Magic were 8-4 before Isaac suffered an ankle injury that kept him out for most of the season. Orlando tried to speed him back. However, Isaac only played another 3 games before re-aggravating the injury.
Orlando has certainly missed the 20-year-old rookie’s presence. It’s no coincidence that the thought of making the playoffs disappeared when Isaac did. A still-weak Magic team may even be deliberately stalling his return to evaluate who they want to consider trading. Regardless, the Magic will certainly benefit from another lottery pick this summer. The knowledge of this is probably forcing the Magic to be patient with Isaac’s injury.
Despite such a small glimpse at Isaac’s play, it’s obvious the young forward is a long-term project. Whether he’s another Giannis for the league to fall in love with, or just another defensive role player can’t yet be said. Once he’s healthy, he’ll have all the time in the world to prove himself. The good news for the Orlando Magic is they are not jockeying for a playoff spot, meaning Jonathan Isaac’s rookie season will hopefully not be an indication of the rest of his career.
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