Jonathan Isaac is 6’11 with a wingspan north of 7’0. Jonathan Isaac is not a center. In fact, Jonathan Isaac is not a power forward, nor is he a small forward and that makes him a perfect fit in today’s NBA.
The former Florida State standout is expected to be selected within the first handful of picks in the 2017 NBA Draft and, if anything, Isaac remains underrated. The 19-year-old was not the leading scorer on his college team, an honor that went to second-round hopeful Dwayne Bacon, and Isaac did not crack the top four for the Seminoles in terms of usage rate. Still, Isaac was able to display enough of his tantalizing skill set that NBA teams are rightly salivating about the opportunity to add him to the mix.
“In college, that isn’t what I was looking for,” Isaac said about the fact that he wasn’t the go-to offensive option for the Seminoles. “I just wanted to be on a team that won and wanted to do what I could to help us win.” That is a perfect encapsulation of Isaac’s mindset, as the reserved super-athlete simply wants to fit in and deploy his wide variety of skills. It isn’t as if Isaac could not function as a primary offensive option, though, and that is where his underrated profile begins to come together.
One knock against Isaac is that he willingly disappeared offensively at times while in Tallahassee and, in truth, that makes sense. The freshman was seemingly more than willing to defer to players like Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes offensively, leaving many possessions in which Isaac served only as a decoy. With that said, he posted a true shooting percent north of 61 percent in one college season and Isaac displayed the ability to take over at times. Early in his NBA career, Isaac will likely fit as a high-floor player that takes very little off the table but, in the future, an offensive skill set that includes the ability to catch-and-shoot, drive close-outs and finish at a high rate around the rim with be in big-time demand.
“I was a huge KD (Kevin Durant) fan and I still am,” Isaac indicated when asked which NBA player he modeled his game after as a youngster. It should be noted that Isaac isn’t quite the shooter that Durant was, especially from long-range but his versatility and body type have drawn that comparison. No one projects Isaac to be the pure, dominant scorer of a player like Durant but, if anything, he could package that type of defensive upside into a player that focuses more on that end and becomes an overwhelming disruptive force.
Given his length, Isaac certainly projects as a plus defender, even before factoring in his developmental upside. He already shined as a rim protector with a block rate of 6.2 percent in the ACC and Isaac’s calling card will be the ability to deter opponents from scoring around the rim while also being able to show and switch in the pick-and-roll. That is the exact combination that bewilders talent evaluators across the league and Isaac is the very rare prospect that doesn’t need much projection to get there because of his combination of physical tools.
How does Isaac stack up against the rest of the top tier of draft prospects? Well, it’s an open question. Among that consensus group, only De’Aaron Fox and Josh Jackson can come close to matching Isaac’s defensive potential and, given that Fox occupies the point guard position, it would be very difficult to project that type of pure impact. In the case of Jackson, the physical tools are there but he has frame concerns (much in the way that Isaac does with a thin make-up) and it takes a different level of dominance to be an impact wing defender, rather than the type of big man that Isaac can develop into for the future.