2018-19 Magic Position Preview: Power Forwards
ORLANDO – Which Aaron Gordon will the Orlando Magic get this season – the one who was dominant and seemingly bound for stardom early in last season or the one who was oft-injured and out of sync late?
Which Jonathan Isaac will the Magic see in Year 2 of his NBA career – the one who struggled to stay upright and on the floor as a rookie or the one who was dramatically more assertive and confident in NBA Summer League play?
If Gordon and Isaac – easily the two most explosive and athletic players on the roster – can make major strides and be consistent this season it could go a long way in helping the Magic be postseason contenders in the pedestrian Eastern Conference. Much intrigue will surround their individual improvements this season for a Magic squad that begins training camp on Sept. 25.
Indeed, much is riding on the shoulders of the 22- and 20-year-old shoulders of Gordon and Isaac. That’s not much of a concern to the Magic after a summer in which they showed their belief in the two forwards with their actions. Orlando let Gordon know that it strongly believes in his future by locking him up to a lucrative, long-term contract extension in early July. Around that same time, the Magic also turned over the reins of their Summer League squad to Isaac and the rangy forward responded with the kind of confident and aggressive play that was lacking much of his rookie season.
The Magic will hold Media Day at the Amway Center on Sept. 24 and open training camp a day later in Orlando. The team begins the preseason in Philadelphia on Oct. 1 and plays Brazilian powerhouse Flamengo on Oct. 5 at the Amway Center. For a third straight season, the Magic will open the regular season at home against the rival Miami Heat – this time on Oct. 17 ay 7 p.m. Season tickets and single-game tickets are on sale and can be purchased by logging onto OrlandoMagic.com or calling 407-89-MAGIC.
With the Magic being less than two weeks from the start of training camp, OrlandoMagic.com is breaking down the team’s strengths, weaknesses and likely plan of attack at each position. Today, the focus is on the power forward position and the plans for using Gordon, Isaac, Jarell Martin and two-way player Amile Jefferson this season. Without further ado, here’s a look at how the Magic will utilize the power forward position:
POSITION: Power forward
PLAYERS: Aaron Gordon (6-9, 220, 4 NBA seasons); Jonathan Isaac (6-11, 225, 1 NBA season); Jarell Martin (6-10, 239, 3 NBA seasons); Amile Jefferson (6-9, 224, NBA rookie).
PROJECTED STARTER: Gordon (2017-18 stats: 58 games, 17.6 ppg., 7.9 rpg., 2.3 apg., 1.0 spg., 43.4 FG percent, 33.6 3FG percent, 69.8 FT percent).
PROJECTED DEPTH: Isaac (2017-18 stats: 27 games, 5.4 ppg., 3.7 rpg., 1.1 bpg., 37.9 FG percent, 34.8 3FG percent, 76 FT percent); Martin (2017-18 stats with Grizzlies: 73 games, 7.7 ppg., 4.4 rpg., 0.7 bpg., 44.6 FG percent, 34.7 3FG percent, 76.7 FT percent); Jefferson (2017-18 stats with G League’s Iowa Energy: 47 games, 18 ppg., 13 rpg., 36 double-doubles.
STRENGTHS: The Magic have two potential young stars at power forward in Gordon and Isaac. Meanwhile, Martin will provide tremendous veteran depth at the position, while Jefferson is an intriguing prospect who was highly consistent at the G league level last season. Gordon and Isaac will likely spit time at the two forward positions throughout the season. At times, Gordon will play power forward on the offensive end and small forward defensively, while Isaac will resemble a small forward on offense and a power forward defensively. Their positional versatility – not to mention their outstanding athleticism – should be big-time strengths at the position for the Magic.
WEAKNESSES: Perimeter shooting will always be a major concern as it relates to Gordon and Isaac. Gordon shot an absurd 59.1 percent from 3-point range last October – including two game-winning threes – but his accuracy soon tumbled as the season progressed. He shot just 31.6 percent from 3-point range after the All-Star break, but he still finished at 33.6 percent for the season – easily a career best. Isaac attempted just 46 3-point shots all season even though foes often backed off of him and dared to heave up perimeter tries. He did make three of six 3-pointers (for a career-best 15 points) on April 1 in Atlanta in what proved to be his final game of an injury-marred rookie season. The Magic are hopeful that a re-worked shooting motion and much more strength will help Isaac because at least a respected 3-point shooter this season. Martin made 34 3-pointers last season after connecting on just nine in his first two NBA seasons. That shot is still very much a work in progress for a big man who was once reluctant to let shots fly from the perimeter.
ANALYSIS: Orlando desperately needs the 22-year-old Gordon to make another big leap this season and become the type of player who it can trust to make the right play – whether that’s taking and making a big shot or making a pass to set up an open teammate. Understanding how to make others around him better when he commands the attention of the defense is a much-needed next step for the forward. Also, Gordon has worked hard all summer to get his body stronger so that he can potentially avoid the nagging injuries that too often knocked him out of action last season.
Isaac, who will split his time at small forward and power forward all season, showed plenty of promise in the NBA Summer League with his confident and assertive play. His long-armed defense, especially when playing alongside of center Mohamed Bamba and Gordon, could be a lethal weapon for the Magic. Like with Gordon, the Isaac will be looked to to make major strides this season. If he can merely run the floor, finish around the rim and be a defensive terror, Orlando will be delighted with the young forward.
Martin is a vastly underrated rebounder and someone who will usually make the right decisions on the offensive end of the floor. He’ll be expected to bring energy and toughness to the Magic’s frontline.
Jefferson, a former three-time team captain at Duke, opened plenty of eyes in the G League last season when he tallied a whopping 36 double-doubles in 47 games. That work earned him first-team All G League Defensive honors last season.
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