5 questions the Orlando Magic must answer in final quarter of the season

The Orlando Magic are struggling to get their swagger back as the playoff race tightens. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic are struggling to get their swagger back as the playoff race tightens. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /
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Jonathan Isaac, Orlando Magic
The promise of Jonathan Isaac is that it is still not clear how good he can really be. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images) /

Is it worth throwing Jonathan Isaac back into the fray?

If there is one narrative that has frustrated fans and the team throughout this season, it is the injuries. The team is still relatively young and making the playoffs as a lower seed is still more about getting the team playoff experience and exposure than anything else.

The Magic’s front office explained this strategy shortly after the trade deadline. President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman further explained this philosophy during a recent episode of the Orlando Magic Pod Squad.

They want their team and their young players to go through this crucible.

And so, yes, part of this season has felt empty since Jan. 1 when Jonathan Isaac went down with an injury.

It has been good to see Markelle Fultz and Mohamed Bamba get this experience. There is certainly frustration with how they are being used and how much time they are both getting — for different reasons.

But neither of those players were making as big of an impact and playing as well as Jonathan Isaac was this year.

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  • If there was a player who could use the playoff battle to further his development, it would have been him. He certainly would have helped solidify the team’s defense with his rim-protection and playmaking on that end. And his offense was slowly expanding.

    Instead, it feels like Isaac’s development has been put on hold.

    Isaac was averaging 12.0 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game. He posted 2.4 blocks and 1.6 steals per game, making him one of the most versatile defenders in the league. He was well on his way to his first All-Defensive team. And certainly the first of many.

    His offensive game was still relatively simple. But nobody knows what the Magic’s plans for him were.

    Coach Steve Clifford constantly said he was trying to find ways to get Isaac more shots. But he made a lot of the team work. And that is simply because Isaac is the one player on the Magic who had a truly elite skill — he was leading the league in “stocks” (steals and blocks combined) and could have been the first wing player to lead the league in blocks in more than a decade.

    There was understandably a lot of excitement for Isaac. When he went down with a posterior lateral corner injury in his left knee, it felt like a lot of the season came crashing down with him.

    The Magic have gone 12-16 since his injury. It was not like the Magic were tearing up the world beforehand. But his development was one of the central themes of the season. It was something that needed to happen.

    Orlando certainly saw plenty to remain excited about Isaac. But not having him for this playoff chase hurts the value and significance of this playoff experience.

    Isaac is slowly recovering from his injury. He has started traveling with the team again and doing very light work on the court. It raised some hopes that he could return.

    Perhaps he might be healthy enough to return and get back into the swing of things. Even that small exposure might help him — and the Magic.

    But we know this front office. They take things very slowly and they are not going to throw him out there unless they are absolutely sure he can play again and remain healthy. It is not like Orlando is in the race to chase down sixth. They know this season probably ends quickly in the first round — even with Isaac. That is not worth the risk of putting Isaac out on the floor too soon.

    Still, it is tantalizing to get Isaac back on the floor. It would give the season a lot of meaning for the big picture once again. And Isaac is just an enjoyable and fun player to watch.

    dark. Next. Orlando Magic's patience will pay off if they keep it

    Magic fans — and I imagine the team — are eager to see him get back to work. But that is probably going to have to wait until next season.