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NBA AM: Jonathan Isaac Eager to Prove Himself

Jonathan Isaac’s versatility may help the Magic right now, writes Cody Taylor.

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Updated 10 months ago on
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Jonathan Isaac had no idea the Orlando Magic were interested in drafting him with the No. 6 overall pick. Even though it caught him off guard, the 6-foot-11 forward is excited about the prospect of beginning his professional career in Florida.

Although Isaac was born in New York, he has spent the last nine years in Florida. He moved to South Florida upon arriving to the state and did his post-graduate year at the IMG Academy in Bradenton.

Of course, Isaac played one season at Florida State and will now move to Orlando.

“You can start playing well as soon you’re comfortable and it definitely helps me adjust a little bit when I’m going to a familiar place,” Isaac said Thursday night.

Isaac averaged 12 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 1.2 steals and 1.2 assists in 32 games last season at FSU. He entered the draft as a player with perhaps the highest upside of anyone in the draft. Standing at 6-foot-11, Isaac boasts a 7-foot-1 wingspan and projects to be a defensive stalwart for the Magic.

Given his quickness and athleticism, Isaac could potentially play a couple of positions for the Magic and that was precisely why they took him with the sixth overall pick. New Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said earlier in the week that the team would target players that could play multiple positions.

For now, Isaac isn’t quite sure what his position will be at the next level.

“I honestly have no idea,” Isaac said. “Right now, I just see myself as a good basketball player that can come in and fill spots. I definitely feel more comfortable facing the basket than having my back to the basket. I do have a midrange game and a mid-post game with my back to the basket. My characteristics are just versatility. I can do a lot of things. I can hit the open shot and make plays off the bounce.”

Isaac said after being selected by the Magic that he never worked out for the team in the weeks leading up to the draft and had no idea the team was serious about drafting him. He had a brief meeting with the team’s new front office but still didn’t believe they were going to draft him based off of that meeting.

“Not everybody comes in for workouts anymore,” Weltman said. “The guys are selective and pick and choose. Honestly, they all strategize. It’s not really an indicator of where they want to go, it’s more of a matter of their schedule and other commitments. With Jonathan, we just felt 100 percent certain that he was the right fit for our team after doing a lot of homework. Speaking with the agent even prior [to the Draft], he indicated that he’d be thrilled if he ended up with us.”

One of the most surprising things to Isaac during the pre-draft process is how well known he is now. He told reporters during the pre-draft media availability on Wednesday that he was shocked people even knew who he was. Now, as the sixth overall pick in the draft, he’s ready to prove to everybody why he was drafted so high.

“I’m super eager not just to prove it to everybody else, but to prove it to myself,” Isaac said. “I’m constantly proving to myself that I belong and I should be here. I need to prove to myself that I deserve to be the No. 6 pick as well as prove it to my coaches and my teammates.”

Just hours after the team took him sixth overall, it’s still far too early to project where Isaac will fit into the lineup. Currently, the team has eight guaranteed players on the roster for the 2017-18 season: Evan Fournier, Bismack Biyombo, Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross, D.J. Augustin, Aaron Gordon, Mario Hezonja and Elfrid Payton.

Depending on how the roster looks at the start of the season, he figures to have an opportunity to compete for a large role in head coach Frank Vogel’s rotation. The Magic moved Gordon to the four spot late last season and projects to play at that position next season. Still, the idea of playing next to Gordon is intriguing to Isaac.

“That dude is so athletic and he’s adding stuff to his game,” Isaac said of Gordon. “I just can’t wait to get there and pick his brain and see where this team can go and just see where he feels I can fit in to help him. I add versatility. I might be able to take some pressure off of him.”

While it may not happen overnight, the Magic are hoping the combination of Isaac and Gordon can help lead them back into relevancy. If anything, Isaac says he’s going to work every day to ensure that happens.

Let’s take him at his word.

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.

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