July 18, 2020, 5:29 pm
The Magic’s Jonathan Isaac has been a fantasy fan favorite for quite some time now. Isaac’s allure has always stemmed from his length, athletic ability and how he’s able to parlay it into high-impact performances on the defensive end of the floor.
As early as his rookie campaign, the sixth overall pick in the 2017 draft was touted as a defensive dynamo in the making. He played sparingly in 2017-18, logging a meager 27 games, but a cult following was already hooked and eager to expect bigger and brighter things from him in during his sophomore season in Orlando. While he did manage to make some strides, Isaac’s impact fell short of where fantasy experts were pegging him to land as far as production was concerned that season. In the end, his 75-game run in 2018-19 was mostly a lukewarm affair, landing him just outside the top-100 in 9-cat scoring formats.
While it was good, it wasn’t quite what the fans were hoping to see. Playing alongside Aaron Gordon resulted in Isaac taking a bit of a backseat to his also-thrilling companion on the wings. Unfortunately, the on-court vibe was not productive and their inability to jell was rather evident, both on film and in the box scores.
On that topic, it must be remembered that not all players explode onto the pro scene right from the get-go. For all intents and purposes, it was worthwhile to give Isaac the benefit of the doubt. He still took a step forward. It just wasn’t as far-reaching a leap that most of us were hoping to see.
In 2019-20, Isaac proved to be true to his pace and then some. The calibrated trajectory for his improvement was exceeded and Isaac left onlookers with their mouths agape. The once top-100 asset was suddenly playing at a much higher level, not just on defense but on the offensive end of the court as well, allowing him to produce top-20 value in 9-cat over the 32 games he played. Still, his durability, or lack thereof, reared its ugly head yet again, keeping his total value at 144.
2019-20 Stats: 32 Games, 29.7 MPG, 12.0 PPG, 0.9 3PG, 6.9 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 2.4 BPG, 1.5 TO, .463 FG, .767 FT
ESPN ADP: 115.4, Yahoo ADP: 67.7
34/16 – 8/9-cat Per Game Value, 158/144 – 8/9-cat Total Value
An overly simplistic answer to the question, “What went right, for Isaac in 2019-20?” would be to say that “his confidence as a player grew and that he began to trust himself more.”
Isaac worked on gaining some muscle and weight over the summer of 2019 but not at the expense of his ability to run up and down the floor. Ever since he joined the league as a 20-year-old, Isaac was considered a bit too scrawny to play the role of a tough defensive small or power forward in the NBA. He grew into a more NBA-ready body before 2019-20 tipped off and the results, as you can see, pretty much spoke for themselves.
As far as the sheet is concerned, Isaac’s aggressiveness in protecting the rim, a jump to 2.4 blocks per game from a previous 1.3 in 2018-19, was the main pillar of his rise in the fantasy basketball arena. His steals, at 1.6 swipes per contest, allowed him to rank as the 12th-best player in the league in that category, beating out the likes of Chris Paul, Elfrid Payton and Lonzo Ball, who are all solid, defensive-minded guards.
As we’ve mentioned, Isaac’s improvement was not just on defense. His shot selection is partially credited for his much-improved shooting clip from the field, now .467 this season, up from .429 in 2018-19. Again, alluding to the growth of his self-confidence, Isaac was more ready and willing to attack the basket when the opportunities presented themselves. His 2-point field goal attempts rose to 7.2, a sizable improvement from his 4.6 attempts in 2018-19.
Overall, we’re all bearing witness to seeing this 22-year-old defensive phenom evolve into an amazing two-way threat, right before our very eyes. That said, he’s not quite hit his ceiling yet, which is something that would boggle the mind of any true or self-proclaimed fantasy basketball pundit out there. Isaac still has a lot of room to improve and given his rate of development, we should all expect to see more from him in 2020-21 — assuming his health holds up, that is. Which brings us to the biggest baggage the youngster carries with him from a fantasy basketball analysis standpoint. Sadly, we cannot help but label him as injury-prone, given the sample size of games he’s managed to muster over his three-year pro career.
Not Just a defensive dynamo, Isaac’s career-high 25-point game vs. the Pacers on 11/29/19
He’s crazy-good with an even crazier uncharted ceiling. Isaac’s eye-opening breakout in 2019-20 is just likely the tip of the iceberg. The Magic’s future can and will be shaken up, depending on how they end up faring in the playoffs this season. Regardless of the result, expect Isaac to figure to have a prominent role with the team moving forward. Why? Well, he’s simply a better overall player than Aaron Gordon. Period. So if the organization is going to move on from one of them, expect Gordon to be the one departing via a trade. Fans in real-life and fantasy alike can and should expect more of what went right for Isaac this season, now that he’s come out of his shell and started playing like the superstar most of us have believed him to be from the very beginning.