Drafting Jonathan Isaac improves Orlando Magic’s perimeter defense

Jan 10, 2017; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Jayson Tatum (0) has his shot blocked by Florida State Seminoles forward Jonathan Isaac (1) during the second half of the game at the Donald L. Tucker Center. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 10, 2017; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Jayson Tatum (0) has his shot blocked by Florida State Seminoles forward Jonathan Isaac (1) during the second half of the game at the Donald L. Tucker Center. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic selected Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac with the sixth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. The pick has improved the team immediately on the defensive end.

The Central Florida fans should feel great about the Orlando Magic’s new direction.

The Magic selected a player who should become a nice fit alongside Aaron Gordon and may be the best one-on-one defender in this year’s draft.

The team lists Jonathan Isaac as a power forward according to draft metrics. But what attracted the Magic to Isaac is his versatility. He should be able to play the small forward position since he can score off the dribble on the wing.

Good thing he can play on the wing, especially since the Magic just experienced sliding Aaron Gordon at the small forward last season because of the Serge Ibaka acquisition. The experiment failed miserably.

Isaac is only 19 years old and stands 6-foot-11 tall with a 7-foot-1 wingspan. Not only does he have the height for the modern-day NBA player, he has the motor on defense and the agility on offense to drive past defenders and get to the rim. He will only improve as he gains strength and grows into his body.

He may grow another inch or two while in the league. His body type is similar to a young Kevin Garnett or a young Kevin Durant. If he turns out to be half as good as either one of those hall-of-famers then the Magic should be good to go for at least a decade.

Drafting Isaac only adds to a growing number of riches on the defensive end. Gordon has established himself as one of the best young defenders in the league. Coach Frank Vogel said what intrigued him about the Gordon and Isaac pairing was their defensive versatility and ability to switch to defend multiple positions.

It seems pairing the two on the defensive end was part of the reason they drafted Isaac.

And Gordon has the chance to support the young player both through his experience and with his play.

Gordon can help Isaac get used to playing at small forward and give him some genuine advice now that he has moved back to his more natural power forward position. Gordon can also help Isaac learn Vogel’s defensive schemes.

Isaac said at his introductory press conference he believes he will be able to contribute to the team immediately on defense. While his offensive skills and body are still raw, both he and the Magic believe he can make an impact immediately on defense.

It also helps the two are close in age and both have potential to be great. This is key for any young defensive player. In Isaac and Gordon’s case, they will be able to hold each other accountable when it comes to switches and guarding the perimeter in isolation situations.

Vogel had to be licking his chops when the sixth pick came around and Isaac was still available. A defensive-minded coach like Vogel could not pass on a talent like Isaac because of his raw defensive tenaciousness and his willingness to clean the glass at the small forward position. He seems like a perfect fit for Vogel’s switch-heavy schemes.

Vogel can use Isaac at power forward and Gordon at the center if he wants to play small ball in 2018. This makes the Magic a fun team to watch because both of these guys are super athletic. Defense is where that athleticism will be most visible.

Isaac is still a skinny guy and needs to continue putting on strength. He may have to bang with some heavier, if not taller, players in the post. And he probably will have to contest shots at the rim from players when he and Gordon switch on pick and rolls. Isaac will get overpowered some early on in his career as he matures and grows into the NBA game.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

But the biggest part of Isaac’s game is his willingness to hustle and defend. This is where he wants to make his mark. His presence will give the Magic the length and versatility on the perimeter it was missing during much of last year’s disappointing team.

Isaac will become a fully developed player. Do not sleep on his ability to score. He played the game of his collegiate career when he scored 23 points and racked up 10 boards against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. That game was one that showed the critics his upside.

He shot 35 percent from three last year for the Florida State Seminoles and looks to improve on his offensive game during his time in Orlando. He shoots 78 percent from the charity stripe.

Although Isaac has shown the ability to launch threes in the face of defenders, he needs to work on getting to the basket more consistently. If Isaac can become more reliant on his ability to get to the rim than his willingness to pull up from three, he could become a high volume scorer.

He has the body type that should be able to draw fouls from defenders. And he may develop into a threat on every part of the court. He has the ability to face up defenders. But he needs to gain a little more weight to develop an effective post game.

This could be one or two years down the road. But if he develops a post game, he will become a complete player for the Magic.

But Isaac will make his impact on defense first. He is a beast with help-side defense. And he showed an ability to jump into passing lanes to score on the fast break.

And this is where the Magic want him to put his focus for his rookie year. This is the identity Vogel hopes the Magic take with Gordon and Isaac leading the way as terrors on the perimeter.

Adding a player like Isaac will help the Magic offensively and defensively. It may get the organization where they want to be. But it may be wise not to hand him the keys to the franchise until there is more undeniable talent on the roster.

There is a lot of pressure on a lottery player to bring a struggling franchise into Playoff contention. The Magic’s last four draft picks can attest to it. Isaac will have to develop quickly if this Orlando team wants to become playoff contenders.

Next: Orlando Magic's process just beginning, to some chagrin

Fortunately for the Magic, they seem to have added a player who will help boost their struggling defense immediately. And, maybe, do a little bit more.