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NBA Daily: Isaac, Bamba Will Be Must-See TV

The Orlando Magic have an exciting young pairing on their hands. Spencer Davies dives into the dynamic duo of Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba.

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If you’re a hardcore fan of the NBA, you’ve probably heard of the term “League Pass team” before.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, the easiest way to describe it is this: Intrigue.

With every League Pass team, the reasoning as to why people tune in varies. Maybe there’s an up-and-coming star in the making that all eyes need to be on, or perhaps an organization is in disarray and fans like to see the chaos translate to the floor. Whatever the rationale—somebody is thinking, “I have to see this.”

After a very brief showing together in the NBA Summer League, longtime friends Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba are making a case that everybody should put the Orlando Magic at the top of their list.

Think to yourself about the Marvel Universe for a brief moment. The duo personified would be like Doc Ock and Mr. Fantastic joining forces and wreaking havoc. Each has a ridiculously long wingspan, with the Isaac’s at 7-foot-1 and Bamba’s stretching out to as long as 7-foot-10.

“It’s like looking in the mirror,” Bamba said of Isaac after the Magic’s first game in Las Vegas last week.

Seeing those measurables you’d probably envision a lot of steals and blocks, and you would be correct.

Bamba has had one rejection in both contests he’s played in. Isaac, on the other hand, has six blocks, but five of those came on Sunday in a dominant performance against the Memphis Grizzlies—a game in which promising rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. was absolutely shut down by Orlando’s lengthy duo.

He went 1-for-9 from the field and could find zero daylight in the restricted area. Statistics at this point of the year are taken with a grain of salt, but Isaac locked Jackson down during the matchup and in one instance, co-swatted one of his attempts along with Bamba to create one of those awe-inspiring moments on the floor.

“In practice, we block a lot of shots and we really go after it on defense,” Bamba said of what he sees of the pairing’s future. “But hopefully it really translates to the game.”

“We’ve been on the same team all summer league practices,” Isaac said. “Us being able to switch and just move—he moves so well for a guy his size and has great foot speed and footwork and being able to block shots at the rim and time things—it’s amazing.”

Bamba and Isaac’s impact isn’t exclusive to the one end of the court, either.

Offensively there is real potential to confuse opposing teams due to duo’s sheer adaptability. Take an example from the first game where Bamba set a screen for Isaac above the top of the key.

With Isaac handling the ball, the Brooklyn Nets defender expected a drive and a roller to come with him. Instead, Bamba floated out to the left elbow, received a pass and nailed a three-ball with nobody in sight.

The play has been run a few different times. At times, Isaac will drive to the hole or pull up with a jumper he’s gained confidence in. In other instances, Bamba will cut to the basket after the pick. Whatever they decide to draw up, it’s highly likely to keep teams on their toes.

“With Jon, sometimes I roll, sometimes I pop,” Bamba said. “But with him, guys really [collapse] on him when he drives, so you can just kick it back and there’s always an open three.

“And they don’t really respect the jump shot quite as they should just yet, but I think I’mma get more off of that—fall for like shot fakes and rips. I’m excited.”

Isaac is excited to have a new weapon in Bamba to not only help himself improve, but to also give Orlando another all-around threat in the frontcourt.

“Man Mo is as versatile as they come with his size and his ability,” Isaac said. “I think he’s gonna be great for us being able to pop back and make shots like that. And we haven’t really even seen him roll, but you put it up there at the top of the square and he’s gonna go get it.”

Accentuating Isaac’s point, we saw an example of Bamba going and getting it already in game two when he threw down a ridiculous backward alley-oop from Braian Angola-Rodas on a fastbreak.

Seeing Bamba and Isaac accomplish what they have in their brief stint together as teammates has to have the Magic’s front office beaming with confidence. They already have great chemistry on the floor, and they’ve been close for a while before this.

As friends, since their days as high school prospects, Bamba has been referring to Isaac as his twin and now their relationship is evolving at the professional level.

“We clicked immediately and on the court we clicked immediately as well,” Bamba told ESPN after the win over Memphis. “He’s just a great guy to play with.”

There have been nicknames floating around social media like Mo-Jo and J.A.M. or B.I.G. referring to the two’s initials plus Aaron Gordon, but nothing is official as of yet. What we do know is that Bamba and Isaac are more than happy to unite on the biggest stage.

On the eve of night one, Isaac texted the rookie big man that he was “super excited” to play with him—and Bamba responded that he “wouldn’t rather play anywhere else.”

The organization and city of Orlando may soon realize they’ll feel the same way.

Spencer Davies is a Deputy Editor and a Senior NBA Writer based in Cleveland in his third year with Basketball Insiders. Covering the league and the Cavaliers for the past five seasons, his bylines have appeared on Bleacher Report, FOX Sports and HoopsHype.

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