Jonathan Isaac should prepare for lots of minutes and to stop Cleveland Cavaliers' frontcourt

Jonathan Isaac started in the last game of the regular season against the Milwaukee Bucks. His dominance during that game and all season on defense should make him the number one player when stopping the Cleveland Cavaliers' big men.
Atlanta Hawks v Orlando Magic
Atlanta Hawks v Orlando Magic / Harry Aaron/GettyImages

Jonathan Issac has had a career revival after lots of injury issues during the 2024 season.

Known a lot for his defensive tenacity, Isaac is averaging 1.2 blocks per game and 0.7 steals per game. He also is the NBA leader in defensive rating at 102.1 points per 100 possessions, a full 2.9 points better than second-place man Jae'Sean Tate from the Houston Rockets. Orlando has a +10.9 net rating when Isaac is on the floor.

Isaac is a truly transformational player. Opponents marvel at the impact he makes defensively as Isaac can fly and protect the rim -- opponents shoot 52.7 percent at the rim against Isaac according to data from Second Spectrum and opponents shot 18.70 percentage points worse than expected at the rim with Isaac as the primary defender, according to data from Basketball-Index.

Isaac was no pushover offensively. He averaged 6.8 points per game and shot 51.0 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent from three. He finished the season after the All-Star Break, averaging 7.9 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game and 1.3 blocks per game (to go with 0.8 steals per game).

Orlando has been trying to get more and more out of Isaac as he has looked healthier and more confident on the floor.

Isaac made just his second start of the season on Sunday in the Orlando Magic's final game of the year against the Milwaukee Bucks. It was a big-time game for Orlando as there was lots of potential shifting for playoff seeding in the Eastern Conference even on the last day. Orlando could have been as high as the 5-seed with a win and as low as the 8-seed with a loss and other results from other NBA games that day.

In a high-pressure game, Isaac came up big with his down-low presence. He had three blocks and six defensive rebounds which played a role in helping Orlando outrebound Milwaukee. He was second on Orlando in total rebounds for that game and was the leader in the game in blocks for both teams.

Still, his defense in the second quarter especially helped flip the game on its head. Bucks coach Doc Rivers said as much as the Magic raced ahead after a slow start to the game.

Isaac played 26 minutes in Sunday's win-and-in game. That was just the second time he had played 25-plus minutes since Feb. 10 against the Chicago Bulls.

This spurt of great play on the defense for Isaac during the Milwaukee game showed just how much he can provide, even if he is lined up as the center, a role he has been playing more and more lately.

Especially with the upcoming playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers on the horizon.

Down low, the Cavs feature two big-time big men in Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley who average 16.5 and 15.7 points per game respectively. The pair in Cleveland's frontcourt also averages 10.5 and 9.4 rebounds a game respectively. Allen himself is the team's leading rebounder while both are top 20 in rebounding in the NBA.

Simply put, Isaac may have his work cut out for him controlling the glass and the Magic are going to have to account for the Cavaliers' size.

But his presence can really be felt.

Orlando is second in the NBA in team efficiency on defense and the fifth-year big man has a lot to do with that. He accounts for a whopping 54.3 percent of all of Orlando's blocks. He also gets a great amount of the Magic's steals nabbing 24.3 percent of them. And this is a Magic team that thrives on turnovers, forcing 15.0 turnovers per game, the third-most in the league.

The Cavaliers are not the strongest rebounding team despite this apparent interior size -- they rank 14th with a 72.1 percent defensive rebound rate. Who controls the glass will go a long way to determining who advances out of this first-round series.

The rebounding battle between Isaac and the Cavaliers' big men will be huge. Isac averages 4.5 rebounds a game making him a top-five rebounder for the Magic as he brings in 30.8 percent of the team's total rebounds.

The Magic as a team are second in the league with a 73.7 percent defensive rebound rate. Orlando tool will be a big factor on the offensive glass -- Isaac averages 1.3 offensive rebounds per game. He cleans up on the offensive glass and can score around the basket.

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He makes for a great matchup with the big Cleveland names in the frontcourt and his ability to control the interior with defense and rebounding. This may give the Magic a good anchor to win their first playoff series since 2010.