Orlando Magic’s length, versatility on display to whet the appetite

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 06: Jonathan Isaac #1 of the Orlando Magic contests a shot from Semaj Christon #6 of the Brooklyn Nets during the 2018 NBA Summer League at the Cox Pavilion on July 6, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Magic defeated the Nets 84-80. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 06: Jonathan Isaac #1 of the Orlando Magic contests a shot from Semaj Christon #6 of the Brooklyn Nets during the 2018 NBA Summer League at the Cox Pavilion on July 6, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Magic defeated the Nets 84-80. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images) /
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The Orlando Magic’s Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba showed plenty of promise as Summer League tipped off. It was a glimmer of what this team wants to be.

Nothing was ever going to get finalized in the Summer League. Let alone, the first Summer League game. Everyone had the nerves and the rust to work off in the Orlando Magic’s 86-80 win over the Brooklyn Nets at Cox Pavilion on Friday.

In his first shot of the Summer League, Jonathan Isaac clanked a shot off the backboard, a few inches wide of the rim. Mohamed Bamba did not fare much better, missing his shot long, clunking it off the back iron and no good.

It was an inauspicious start for two players the Magic are hoping to build around. Summer League results deserve as much skepticism as they can get. Nothing should be taken as gospel. Merely hints of what things might look like in the fall.

If that is the case, the Magic showed some more promise than those initial forays would suggest. The team tried some truly unique sets and got some of their best play from the players who mattered most. In this way, the Magic’s first Summer League game — and all the experiments that came with it — was a success.

Isaac went on a scoring binge in the third quarter, stepping into dribble pull-up jumpers and draining them over the defense. No one could challenge his shot if they tried with his length. He was more than willing to fly around defensively too and helped raise the team’s overall intensity.

Bamba was clearly getting his feet wet, showing some tentative moments. But he was not afraid to let his jumper fly or to get involved. His presence defensively was everything advertised and he ran the floor with fluidity and smoothness. He used his frame well to free up guards on screens. The little things that big men have to do to be successful.

All that will add up as they get into a rhythm in the next few games and then eventually translate to the main roster and their final roles.

The potential and uniqueness of these two players began to show through. At least in its infancy.

In one telling sequence Jonathan Isaac lined Bamba up in a pick and roll. There were the team’s two tallest players — their power forward and center — running a pick and roll and causing the defense to look confused. Isaac drove as two defenders came with him and Bamba popped out to the 3-point line.

Bamba calmly drained the 3-pointer. It was his only of the game, but Bamba was certainly comfortable taking that jumper and making it a part of his game. The potential of catching centers in that poor situation of having to switch onto Isaac or stay out on the 3-point line to guard Bamba seemed as lethal as everyone imagined.

Or take when Isaac got the ball to Bamba on the pick and roll and the defense recovered. Bamba fed Isaac on the block comfortably. Isaac, showing his improvement with his jumper and positioning, turned and hit a fadeaway jumper over the smaller defender.

These are all part of the potential of their length. What they could do from their versatile skill sets on the offensive end.

Isaac especially showed his potential there in Friday’s game. He stepped into jumpers and calmly hit pull-up mid-range jumpers over defenses. Isaac scored 20 points on 7-for-17 shooting, going on scoring runs in the second and third quarters.

This was the kind of step forward the Magic wanted to see with Isaac. He was more comfortable on the ball and able to create and get his own shot.

Bamba too showed a lot of those signs too. He scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Bamba was unafraid to shoot but still looked like he needed to get comfortable on the floor.

He still showed a lot of what could make him great. That jumper at the center position can stretch the floor and count him among the unicorns of the league. His length and presence changing things on defense and keeping drivers from getting to the basket. And his athleticism and agility in transition to finish at the basket.

For Isaac and Bamba, their presence defensively was clear. The team’s defensive intensity increased when the two were on the floor. And while the two only had two blocks between them, they clearly kept the Nets from driving to the basket effectively.

In the prism of Summer League, it felt like everything about this duo and what it could be worked.

Of course, it is Summer League. There was plenty of sloppiness. The Nets did not play any of their regular roster players. First-round pick Dzanan Musa has not received clearance from FIBA and Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert sat out the game.

Isaac settled for mid-range jumpers far too often. He fell in love with his isolation play and with the game in the balance, he was as guilty as everyone else of taking contested jumpers from the mid-range.

Bamba looked like a rookie. He was rushing through things and settling for jumpers. Bamba popped far more than he rolled and did not work around the basket. He had one late-game post up where he got caught in the air and turned it over. The Magic still kept things very simple for Bamba.

That will likely change as the week goes on. Players get better and more comfortable in this setting.

For whatever the first Summer League game is worth, the Magic saw a glimpse of what their team could be. Or what Isaac and Bamba could give them.

Next: Jonathan Isaac must gain his rhythm in Summer League

That glimmer is enough to call the first Summer League game a success and give the Magic something to build from.