Orlando Magic: What to expect from Jonathan Isaac, Markelle Fultz

Orlando Magic Cole Anthony (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)
Orlando Magic Cole Anthony (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Orlando Magic will need big contributions from Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz. 

After parting ways with franchise cornerstone Nikola Vucevic and foundational players like Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier at the NBA Trade Deadline last year, it signaled the beginning of a new direction for the Orlando Magic.

Head coach Steve Clifford was eventually replaced by Jamahl Mosley, a long-time assistant with the Dallas Mavericks, as the Magic also had a successful 2021 NBA Draft in adding Gonzaga star Jalen Suggs and Michigan big man Franz Wagner to a roster loaded with talent.

However, the Magic’s roster would receive a significant upgrade if Jonathan Issac and Markelle Fultz can both return at full strength after both players suffered torn ACLs. Fultz, a former No. 1 overall pick suffered the injury after only eight games into the season last year while Issac sat out the entire season after suffering his injury the year before in the NBA bubble. Issac brings so much to a Magic team in need of a player who can lead and elevate the team as he possesses many key attributes.

Issac’s progression from his rookie season signals that he will only continue to get better especially on the defensive end as he exhibited the skills worthy of one day winning Defensive Player of the Year. In the 34 games Issac played before the injury, he was averaging 1.6 steals to go along with an astounding 2.3 blocks per game.

An absolute monster on the defensive end, Issac has the ability to be a difference-maker and can single-handedly shut down an opposing team’s top-scoring threat. With a 7-foot-2 wingspan and his combination of height, length, and agility, Issac is capable of guarding any position and can switch on the smaller quicker guards as well.

He also excels at defending the pick-and-roll and can adeptly protect the rim. His long arms allow him to easily redirect and disrupt passes with good anticipation and awareness. Issac is also excellent whenever guarding players heads up in isolation as it is difficult to get him to bite on head fakes or get him to leave his feet.

It will be interesting to see how Mosley uses his lineup combinations with the 7-foot Mo Bamba and Wendell Carter on the floor with Issac. That trio in the frontcourt could have a lot of success and give the Magic a definite size advantage which could create mismatches against most teams. Let’s also not forget about how good Issac is on the offensive end as well.

He is capable of getting up and down the floor, possesses a nice shooting touch despite needing to improve his percentage from behind the arc, and can score from all three levels as he can move very well without the ball.

Just as all No. 1 overall selections, Fultz entered the league with enormous expectations and has failed to live up to the hype as his career has been somewhat derailed by injuries but all hope isn’t lost as he has shown flashes that he can still be a productive player in the league. Orlando seems to be the perfect destination for Fultz to resurrect his career especially considering he will have an incoming coach who should easily find ways to utilize his many talents.

With playmakers Cole Anthony and rookie Jalen Suggs on the floor with him, the sky is the limit for this talented backcourt. The 76ers appeared to have given up on Fultz too quickly and didn’t allow him the time to truly reach his full potential.

Philadelphia just wasn’t an ideal fit for him and a fresh start in Orlando should afford him the opportunity to refocus with the room to grow and improve. Fultz sort of has an old-school vibe to his game as he exhibits heart and determination whenever he is on the floor and goes all out on every play. A high-energy player with great court vision, Fultz has a good mid-range game and the ability to exploit gaps in the defense and penetrate with his quick first step.

Considering his size at 6-foot-3 and strength for a guard, he can be a potential problem for opposing defenses. Fultz is a highly underrated player with an array of moves and playmaking ability, but if he can shoot it more efficiently from behind the arc, he could become a complete player.

Without Issac or Fultz, the Magic should still be able to be competitive and fight for a playoff spot but more than likely won’t make it out of the first round due to their youth and lack of experience.

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With both of these talented players healthy, the Magic have the potential to be a good team as they would give them more of an edge and a higher probability to win games. Hopefully, both Issac and Fultz won’t suffer through any more injuries or setbacks and can hopefully lead the Magic back to the playoffs.