Jonathan Isaac is the Orlando Magic's sixth man of the future

The Orlando Magic made the unique decision to renegotiate and extend Jonathan Isaac's contract, likely inking him to a critical and long-term role with the team.
Jonathan Isaac was a game-changing defensive player for the Orlando Magic. Now the Magic are investing in him on a bargain deal that shows he is their sixth man.
Jonathan Isaac was a game-changing defensive player for the Orlando Magic. Now the Magic are investing in him on a bargain deal that shows he is their sixth man. / Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

If you want to know a team's priority, look to where the team spends its long-term money.

Those are typically the stars, of course. They get four- and five-year deals for as much money as teams can give them in a lot of instances. These are the players they commit not only money but years to retain.

The Orlando Magic had cap room this offseason. A lot of cap room.

Instead of chasing big fish on the market, the Magic seemingly were pretty conservative. They gave a three-year deal to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope worth $66 million. Then they brought players back on shorter-term two- and three-year deals. The Magic brought back much of the same roster, but they did not overextend themselves.

Except in one area.

The Magic are reportedly signing Jonathan Isaac to a five-year, $84 million contract as part of a rengotiate-and-extend deal. Orlando is using its excess cap room to increase Isaac's salary this year and then bring him back for less over a long-term deal (the average value of the contract is $16.8 million).

Isaac then cements himself as a critical part for the Magic. He is the first player the Magic have signed through the beginning of Paolo Banchero's expected extension beginning with the 2027 season. The Magic are preparing for a world where they are capped out.

Isaac could be due to play a bigger role next season. He very well could be the team's sixth man next year with how important and impactful he is on defense and where his offense could look to bounce back with his first healthy summer.

Orlando has made the investment in him and he should have an outsized role off the bench for the team for the foreseeable future.

Jonathan Isaac was already a game-changing defender

There is no doubt Jonathan Isaac is one of the most game-changing defenders in the league. He might have snuck onto the All-Defensive Team last year if he had played enough games.

The Magic had a 102.1 defensive rating with Isaac on the floor—6.1 points per 100 possessions better than the next best rotation player in Franz Wagner. That speaks to how impactful Isaac can be.

He averaged 1.9 stocks per game in 15.8 minutes per game while appearing in 58 games (the most since his initial knee injury in 2020). He was among the most disruptive defenders in the league, averaging 1.8 steals per 75 possessions and 3.32 deflections per 75 possesions. He added 2.72 blocks per 75 possessions. He saved 1.41 rim points per 75 possessions, according to Basketball Index, placing him in the 98th percentile in the league.

Some of his effectiveness is certainly because he played limited minutes and was held out of pretty much every back-to-back. He also struggled in the playoffs—the Magic only had a 98.7 defensive rating with Isaac on the floor in the playoffs when the Magic used him as a starter to middling effect in Games 1 and 2.

But the eye test would tell you Isaac still could make some jaw-dropping defensive plays. For his first full year back after his devastating knee injuries, he made an outsized impact.

Isaac still has to work on his offense though to take on more responsibility. He averaged 6.8 points per game and shot 37.5 percent from three last year. That was promising. but his offensive game was still very limited. Health is the best way to expand his role.

The question is how much better he can get with a healthy offseason.

This summer would be the first healthy offseason for Isaac since 2019. He started the 2020 season averaging 11.9 points per game and shooting 47.0 percent from the floor with an astounding 3.9 stocks per game.

Can Isaac get to that marker again?

Considering the Magic have spent most of their offseason shoring up the backcourt, the Magic are likely counting on Isaac to be an impactful player. Only Tristan da Silva is among the reserve forwards and he is a rookie.

Isaac did not play the most minutes of players off the bench as he played through his injury recovery. Everyone was just happy to get something from Isaac. He was a bonus for a young team.

But with improved offensive output and confidence, Isaac's defense makes him the most critical player for the Magic off the bench. Everyone should hope that Isaac's injury restrictions are mostly lifted.

Whereas most teams have sixth men who can burn off tons of points, the Magic have a sixth man who erases shots and locks up on defense. Isaac is the Magic's most impactful reserve player.

They have invested in him as such.

The Orlando Magic should view the new contract as a bargain

The contract itself for the Orlando Magic will likely be a bargain, especially as the salary cap increases and the team's payroll balloons. By all reports, the Magic have frontloaded the deal and the salary amounts will decrease after the 2025 season.

The deal will likely see Isaac's salary for the 2025 season increase to a reported $25 million (according to ESPN) and then decrease down to as little as $15 million in 2026 with appropriate raises through the rest of the contract. Or it could be a stronger raise this year with decreases over the next five years as John Hollinger of The Athletic reports:

With the salary cap increasing, Isaac will take up a lower percentage of the cap as the Magic's payroll begins to increase. Isaac got long-term security even if he sacrificed raw dollars in the long-term. And the contract will reportedly contain protections in case of injury.

The full details of the deal should make it evident that the Magic are getting a key contributor at a bargain price.

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And to be sure, Isaac will play an important role for this Magic team for the foreseeable future. How big his role becomes will depend, of course, on his health. But he figures to be the team's sixth man and designated defender for years to come.