After being out for two consecutive seasons, it could be easy for NBA fans to forget how integral Jonathan Isaac is to the success of the Orlando Magic.
But, when Isaac stepped back onto the court in front of Magic faithfuls, he helped remind the NBA about how great of a player he is and how essential he can be to the future of the Magic. Fans saw as he stripped Jaylen Brown for a steal in his first game back, took it down the court, and got the ball to his teammate Paolo Banchero for a nice two-hand slam. Magic fans call him the “Minister of Defense” for a reason, and he’s still a big part of what’s next for Orlando.
As long as he stays healthy, that is. The key words are “stays healthy” here because Isaac just played his first minutes in an NBA game since Aug. of 2020: a dark time in the NBA where the COVID-19 pandemic had NBA fans glued to their TV screens as they watched a unique NBA they had never seen before. By that point, Isaac was showing that he was one of the top defenders in the league when healthy, an essential piece you want on your squad especially in a playoff run.
As Isaac returns to the Magic, he too is returning to a different roster he’s not been able to play with. Longtime franchise players like Nikola Vucevic are gone and new players like Banchero have arrived to bolster a roster that just hasn’t been able to get back into contention. On top of that, players like Mo Bamba who were initially drafted to bring a sense of stability to the center position now are being involved in trade talks ahead of the upcoming NBA trade deadline.
So, to have a player like Isaac come back, you need him to stay healthy. Even taking a look from a defensive standpoint this season, the Magic are one of the worst teams in the league in terms of defensive efficiency without Isaac on the court. When you add him back on the court, a guy who’s a terrific shot-blocker and on-ball defender amongst his other skillset, that’s huge for a young Magic roster that’s severely lacking an elite defensive anchor.
But now, what’s next for the Magic with Isaac back on the roster? The team’s frontcourt improved significantly when they drafted Banchero with the No. 1 overall selection in the 2022 NBA draft, and players like Franz Wagner along with Wendell Carter also help improve a young lineup that looks to contend for future success. Isaac is only going to add to that, but if you’re the Magic, you need to continue to add more defensive pieces to your lineup.
I believe some of those pieces can be added sooner than later with the upcoming trade deadline. Bamba can be used to take a chance on a player for the future as players develop to replace the young big man’s production. The team will certainly need some better veteran pieces on the roster, and the deadline can be used for just that problem. Magic fans have already found that Terrence Ross could be an expendable piece at the deadline due to him not being a part of the team’s long-term plans to rebuild.
As the team develops with Isaac back and some of those added defensive pieces, this team will certainly climbing back up the NBA ladder. Sooner or later, if everything clicks, NBA fans will definitely be hearing more about the Magic, especially if they continue to do things like winning their season series against the Boston Celtics.