For those who are getting antsy about end-of-season awards: Welcome to the NBA Nerd Club.
You will be sharing your table with the advanced statistics bunch, listening to J.J. Redick discuss the importance of wins over replacement.
All jokes aside, there is a good conversation to be made here in Orlando about the individual trophies, specifically revolving around Jonathan Isaac. The 26-year-old has appeared in just 26 games this year (starting zero) and will need to appear in all of the Magic's 39 remaining games to be considered for awards under the league's new rules.
The Minister of Defense (a top five in the best nicknames in basketball award) has been an absolute force defensively in just those 13.5 minutes per game.
Taking a look at the odds for Defensive Player of the Year, Isaac does not rank in the top three for Defensive Player of the Year. Or top five. Or even top ten. And to add insult to injury, not even the top 30.
Oklahoma City Thunder
New York Knicks
Los Angeles Lakers
New Orleans Pelicans
San Antonio Spurs
It makes sense. All 10 of the above players are full-time starters, star players or have shown a history of defensive prowess in the last few seasons. Jonathan Isaac, at only 13.5 minutes per game, is not going to move the needle in comparison to the 30-plus minutes we see out of Rudy Gobert, Chet Holmgren or OG Anunoby.
But he still makes a clear impact defensively.
Isaac is averaging 1.9 "stocks" per game and a robust 5.0 stocks per 36 minutes. The Magic have a 100.4 defensive rating with Isaac on the floor, the best mark among the Magic's regular rotation players.
Isaac is extremely disruptive, averaging 3.39 deflections per 75 possessions (putting him in the 89th percentile). He also averages 2.26 blocks per 75 possessions (placing him in the 95th percentile). According to data from Basketball-Index, he averages 1.66 rim points saved per 75 possessions, placing him in the 99th percentile.
Isaac plays precious few minutes, but he is extremely disruptive in those minutes. His defensive impact is abundantly clear even if he is not playing enough to hit the marks for any of the awards.
Pouring over the game film for Isaac proves he should be right in the thick of the Defensive Player of the Year race.
He is one of the best interior defenders in basketball, right up there with the top bigs in the league. When Isaac is the primary defender, players shoot 22.4 percent worse inside of 6 feet. According to data from Second Spectrum, opponents shoot only 43.1 percent at the rim on 2.0 attempts per game.
In general, Isaac forces a 6.1 percentage point decrease in shot percentage on defense. Again, it is a small sample size.
If and when he gets more playing time down the stretch, those numbers will dwindle a bit, but still would likely rank among the upper echelon of defenders.
At 6-foot10, Isaac's length and bounciness (even after missing two straight seasons recovering from ACL injuries) are a force inside. He introduces an almost solar-eclipse-like presence in the paint.
He is quick to switch across the block and disrupts a ton of momentum on drives. He is the perfect back-end defender to complement the swarm of perimeter defenders the Magic have at their disposal (see: Markelle Fultz's insane steal against the Miami Heat).
On the perimeter, Isaac is pretty solid himself. His length makes up for the speed difference against opposing guards and uses his length well. He is averaging 3.0 blocks and 2.0 steals per 36 minutes, and it is getting noticed across the organization.
""He's a guy that should be on the All-Defensive team. If not at some point moving into that Defensive Player of the Year conversation because he's that good. He's got a special gift, and he wants all those challenges and it's great that we have a team of guys that want to take on all defensive challenges."- Jamahl Mosley on Isaac's defense
Isaac's struggles to stay healthy have been the weak point in this campaign, both this season and in his career.
He has played the games equivalent to 2.1 seasons in the league despite getting drafted in 2017. He has to stay healthy for the rest of the season to be considered for the award.
The 2019 season was the only year he played more than 65 games (he played 75 that year). Everything has been a false start for Isaac. But everyone is still enamored with his defensive potential and impact.
If he can stay healthy and Orlando fights its way into the postseason, the argument has to be made for Isaac to be one of the five frontrunners for Defensive Player of the Year. He is a top defender in the league and has the opportunity to prove that down the stretch this season as one of the Magic's most important pieces of their playoff push.