The 2017 NBA draft featured loads of talent and was probably one of the best draft classes in NBA history. Most people were—and still are— focused on the big names that were selected, such as Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum, and Dennis Smith Jr., as well as the interesting storylines that surrounded some players that were chosen, like Markelle Fultz’s shooting fiasco, or Donovan Mitchell being a steal at 13th overall. Due to all the hype surrounding the highly-talented draft class, people have forgotten about the sixth overall pick—Jonathan Isaac—who was selected by the Orlando Magic. Isaac has had a slow start to his NBA career, but the 6’10” forward is one of the most talented, potential-filled players selected in the class, and his prized skillset is completely underrated.
Heading into the draft, Isaac wasn’t very well-known. Everyone listed him as a lottery pick on mock draft boards, but he was never the topic of conversation among analysts and writers preparing for the draft. Instead, they were focused on others.
Before hearing why Isaac is one of the most underrated players not only in his draft class, but in all of the NBA, it’s important to know more about him as a player, and his popularity in his early career. In high school, Isaac was one of the top recruits. In 2016, ESPN rated him a five-star recruit and ranked him as the 12th overall player in its popular “ESPN 100,” which features the top 100 players coming out of high school.
Isaac has all of the physical features to be a great basketball player. He’s 6’10,” 185 lbs, and has a 7’1” wingspan. He was never expected to be that tall, though. Isaac grew a staggering seven inches between his sophomore and senior years of high school. As a sophomore, he was regarded as a 6’3” guard, and by his senior year, Isaac was a 6’10” forward. Being a guard in his early high school career contributed to his overall game as a big man later in high school. It allowed him to be more versatile, and have a larger array of skills to his game. Isaac was able to be a shooting threat as well as a post-up power forward which made him extremely difficult to guard. Isaac’s growth spurt is similar to that of Anthony Davis, who grew eight inches in a span of 18 months during high school.
Isaac’s stature and style of play drew comparisons to NBA superstar Kevin Durant. By his senior year, Isaac was unstoppable. He averaged 29.5 points per game along with 9 rebounds per game and began receiving offers from top programs like Kentucky, Florida, Florida State, and more. He eventually committed to Florida State University.
In college, Isaac wasn’t as impressive as people thought he would be. He averaged 12 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per contest while shooting 50.8% on field goals. The freshman’s stats didn’t quite live up to expectations, but they didn’t matter in the long run, as Isaac was still projected to be a lottery pick in the 2017 NBA draft.
Isaac was selected sixth overall by the Orlando Magic, as he would join Aaron Gordon as part of the young core on the team. However, because of the attention surrounding other players in the draft, Isaac was forgotten in his quiet rookie season. His first year in the league wasn’t outstanding, but the rook still managed to put up solid numbers. In just under 20 minutes per game, Isaac put up 5.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, and 1.2 steals per game in 27 games. He also shot 37.9% from the field and 34.8% from three-point range. In the 15 games he’s played so far this season—while averaging two more minutes per game—Isaac has averaged 8.2 points, 5.2 boards, and 1.1 blocks per game. He’s attempted an average of 1.5 more shots than his rookie campaign and has improved 2.8 points per game. This just goes to show that if Isaac can be more confident in his shooting ability and attempt more shots per contest, then he’ll be a deadly scorer.
Isaac has speed and all of the physical features to be a great player, but he lacks athleticism and muscle—both of which can be improved. Isaac has shown flashes of superstar potential in a few games this season. In a win against the Lakers early in the season, Isaac put up 7 points, five rebounds, and five blocks in just 17 minutes. In another game against the Celtics, Isaac finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds on 8-12 shooting in 26 minutes, helping lead the Magic to a three-point win over a talented Boston team.
As Isaac becomes more confident, he’ll be granted more minutes, and he’ll continue to produce with his all-around game and become more consistent. If Isaac can stay on the path that he’s on, he’ll undoubtedly be a better scorer than Tatum or Kyle Kuzma and have a larger impact on his team than Mitchell. Even though he didn’t develop quite as fast as other rookies in the 2017 NBA draft, he has the potential to be better than all of them in the future, and possibly be the best player to come out of the draft class. Isaac’s physical stature, all-around game, and superstar flashes in his young career make him the most underrated player of the 2017 draft class. Keep an eye on Jonathan Isaac, because he’s quickly on the rise.