2024 Orlando Magic Player Outlook: Jonathan Isaac aims for health again

Feb 23, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Killian Hayes (7) defends Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac (1) during the second half at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 23, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Killian Hayes (7) defends Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac (1) during the second half at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

This is the first season in a long time the Orlando Magic are going into the season with expectations.

The Magic’s motto is to level up and the next level is to reach the postseason. Orlando was the last team eliminated from postseason contention before essentially tanking the last couple of games.

However, Jonathan Isaac is the exception. His goal is to help the Magic win. But this season for Isaac is more of a last chance for the oft-injured player. His presence though could also provide the spark to take the Magic to the next level.

The Orlando Magic are aiming at trying to win and returning to the postseason. For Jonathan Isaac, the season is once again about returning to the court and sustaining his health again.

Last season Isaac played just 11 games after missing two seasons recovering from a torn ACL suffered early in the bubble during the 2020 season. He missed the remainder of the 2023 season with another torn left adductor muscle that required surgery. It was described as “minor” surgery, but nothing feels minor when it comes to Isaac and his health.

Isaac has been extremely unlucky with injuries and left a lot of fans ready to move on. But he finds himself with a healthy offseason and should be ready for training camp to prove why he is still on this team and ready to help take the Magic to the next level.

The biggest goal for Isaac is just to stay on the court once again. The Magic need Isaac on the court and the goal has to be to make sure he is available.

No one is expecting 82 games from Isaac but any production after playing in the majority of the games would be extra. There will surely be some restrictions again on his return and the Magic will be comfortable bringing him off the bench with Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero starting at forward.

But Isaac’s contract situation is starting to hover above him. The Magic have exhibited tons of patience with the 6-foot-11 forward. But he is entering the final two years of his contract — next season’s contract is fully non-guaranteed — and the Magic are entering a new phase where they are trying to compete and advance in the postseason.

It is hard to do that with a $17 million contract on the books that is uncertain to play or contribute meaningfully to the team.

With that being said, Isaac showed flashes last season that his game on both ends could help Orlando make that playoff push. He can still be a valuable and impactful player for the team.

On the defensive end, Isaac had shown flashes of being disruptive and being dangerous in passing lanes and challenging shots while grabbing 4.0 rebounds per game in just 11.3 minutes per game (12.8 rebounds per 36 minutes).

The rebounding was the most impressive part of his short stint last season. This level of rebounding could allow the Magic to run different lineups with Isaac playing all three front-court positions.

Isaac’s defense was always his most valuable skill. And it felt like he did not miss a beat impacting the game on that end. He continues to show the ability to defend at a high level averaging 1.3 steals and 0.4 blocks per game.

Additionally, the Magic had a 107.7 defensive rating with Isaac on the floor. That mark was second on the team, trailing only Goga Bitadze, and was 6.0 points per 100 possessions better than the team’s season average and 2.6 points per 100 possessions during the 11 games he played for the team.

Isaac is quite simply disruptive on the floor. He averaged 4.2 steals per 75 possessions and 5.8 deflections per 75 possessions, both among the best marks in the entire league (small sample size noted).

It is clear to see how Isaac’s presence can boost the defense. Just as it is clear that Isaac was still getting his legs under him and working his way back into the fold during his short stint last year.

On the offensive end of the floor, Isaac potentially improved on his scoring ability and floor spacing. Isaac was a capable 3-point shooter making 6 of 15 3-pointers during his first stint last year.

Using the word “potentially” is important because he only played in 11 games and only 11.3 minutes per game. All of his stats should be taken with a grain of salt. Isaac showed the comfort to attack off the dribble and the willingness to score in the midrange especially off of a fadeaway jumper.  Then, although on just 15 attempts, Isaac shot 40.0 percent from three.

Orlando did not ask Isaac to do a lot, opting to keep his role simple. He knew he was playing in short 5-6 minute bursts and so he played all out in that time. That helped make his impact clearer. Now the question is whether Isaac can take on a full load and take on full responsibilities in the rotation.

The Magic have some versatility throughout the roster, but few players with the size and potential that Isaac has. Joe Ingles might be a solid player, but he is a downgrade in terms of mobility at the 4 if he ends up being the backup power forward. The same could be said for Moe Wagner. Both are capable of playing that spot, but neither can do the things Isaac can.

This season will be about Isaac having the ability to stay on the court. At the same time, Isaac showed enough flashes last season that may prove he will be able to help push the team to the next level.

Next. Player Outlook: Jett Howard provides Orlando Magic with shooting touch. dark

Once Isaac contributes on both ends of the court, the Magic will be better than most can see coming.