TORONTO – Two games in and one thing is clear: Jonathan Isaac is a special defender.
That’s not breaking news, though, as the recently-turned 22-year-old has been great defensively from the moment he arrived in Orlando.
But there’s just something different now about the Bronx, New York native, who swatted away four shots during Saturday’s game in Atlanta. He seems to be longer and covering more space on defense.
One opponent who probably agrees with that judgment is the Atlanta Hawks’ John Collins, who, like Isaac, was a 2017 first round NBA Draft pick.
In a game last season between the Magic and Hawks, Isaac blocked Collins three times on the same possession. In the four 2018-19 contests between the Southeast Division rivals combined, Collins shot 3-of-16 when Isaac was his closest defender, per Second Spectrum tracking data.
On Saturday, the Hawks’ rising star once again had no answer when matched up against Orlando’s versatile forward. Isaac blocked Collins both times the 6-foot-9, 236-pounder tried shooting over him. Collins, in fact, didn’t make a single shot when he and Isaac were on the floor at the same time.
What’s crazy about it all is that Collins, a career 56 percent shooter, is an extremely efficient scorer. Even Rudy Gobert, the reigning back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year, has had some trouble containing Collins, who shot 9-of-17 when Utah’s big man was his closest defender the last two seasons combined, per data.
Through two games this season, opponents are 5-of-16 from the floor when Isaac contests a shot. Next up for Isaac is a battle against a familiar foe, Pascal Siakam. The two were often matched up against one another during last year’s Orlando versus Toronto first round playoff series.