OKLAHOMA CITY – The way-too-early-list of 2019-20 Defensive Player of the Year candidates must include the Orlando Magic’s Jonathan Isaac, who has shut down virtually every opponent he’s been matched up against in the early portion of the season.
Through six games, per Second Spectrum tracking data, opponents are shooting 29.7 percent from the floor, 22.2 percent from 3-point range and 34.5 percent from within six feet of the hoop when he is the closest defender.
Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, New York’s Julius Randle, Atlanta’s John Collins and Denver’s Big Three of Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap and Jamal Murray were a combined 2-of-14 from the field in that early-season stretch when Orlando’s 22-year-old contested their shot attempts.
Noteworthy as well is Isaac’s defensive anticipation and timing. The 6-foot-11, 234-pound versatile forward has come up with 23 deflections, 15 blocked shots and nine steals so far – stats that all rank near the top of the league in each of those categories.
It’s not a huge surprise that Isaac is doing as well as he is defensively considering that was one of his main strengths even before the Magic made him the No. 6 overall draft pick in 2017.
Also not a surprise is how good Orlando as a team has been on that end of the floor. The Magic currently rank No. 3 in opponent points in the paint, No. 4 in opponent second chance points and No. 6 in opponent points off turnovers. They are also one of only five teams – the Lakers, Jazz, Thunder and Heat being the others – who have a defensive rating under 100.0.
Another Magic player thriving on the defensive side, despite him struggling on the other end, is Terrence Ross. Opponents are currently shooting 24.3 percent from the field, per data, when the 6-foot-7, 205-pounder is the closest defender, just 13 percent from beyond the arc.