ESPN Analyst Tim Legler Thinks Jonathan Isaac Could Become Star Player

By John Denton
June 23, 2017

ORLANDO – While there is still plenty uncertainty regarding the potential and ceiling of teenaged talent Jonathan Isaac, at least one highly respected NBA analyst feels the Orlando Magic struck gold with their first-round pick in Thursday night’s NBA Draft.

Tim Legler, ESPN’s lead basketball analyst since 1999, pulled no punches when asked on SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt on Thursday night about which player he thought had the most superstar potential in the years to come. Legler, a former NBA player himself from 1995-99, passionately expressed that he feels Isaac is about the develop into the star player that the Magic have coveted for years.

``Jonathan Isaac, to me, could ultimately be the biggest wildcard in this (draft class),’’ Legler said. ``When I watch him play, offensively, with the length and the 9-foot, 2-inch standing reach and his ability to handle like a guard, take off and do things defensively with length …

``Most importantly, his footwork is so advanced for a guy that height and that age,’’ Legler continued. ``His jab-step stuff and his ability to attack you – one/two either direction – is really special.’’

Legler didn’t stop there, saying that one of the question marks about Isaac’s game – his ability to shoot from distance – will eventually turn into a strength for both he and the Magic.

``He gets (his jump shot) off,’’ Legler said. ``He’s not like a great NBA 3-point shooter (yet), but he’s a very good college shooter, which will translate into becoming a great NBA shooter. (Isaac) could be the best offensive player in the whole group and he went sixth.’’

Orlando, under the direction of President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman and GM John Hammond for the first time, feared the possibility that Isaac might never make it to them at pick number six. Rumors abounded in the days and hours before the draft that other teams – namely the Boston Celtics at No. 3 and Phoenix Suns at No. 4 – could be interested in snagging Isaac. Instead, those teams opted for Duke forward Jayson Tatum and Kansas forward Josh Jackson. And when Sacramento selected point guard De’Aaron Fox at No. 5, it meant the Magic would have the right to pluck the 6-foot-10, 210-pound Isaac.

Like Legler, Weltman feels that the Magic uncovered a player who will ultimately become the best talent of the Thursday’s NBA Draft. Weltman and Hammond certainly have a history of pulling off that kind of feat, finding and drafting All-NBA forward Giannis Antetokounmpo back in 2013 while working for the Milwaukee Bucks. Undoubtedly, they hope that Isaac – a similarly long athlete with freakishly skilled physical tools – develops the same sort of way.

``I don’t know what’s not to like about him,’’ Weltman said. ``Throughout the weeks leading up the draft there were so many rumors there were so many rumors flying around of teams trying to trade into the top five and Jonathan’s name actually came up where the Tatums and Jacksons were picked to go.

Ultimately, the chalk will say that he fell to us at six, but he was rumored anywhere (in the top five) and that’s how talented he is. He’s a terrific kid by all accounts and we feel he’s going to grow into being a spectacular player.’’

Isaac and the Magic’s No. 33 pick – Kansas State small forward Wesley Iwundu – will meet the Orlando media today at 3 p.m. The news conference will be live-streamed on Iwundu, a 6-foot-7, 193-pounder, played 132 games over four seasons at K-State. He averaged 13 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists and greatly improved as a 3-point shooter (37.6 percent) as a senior for the Wildcats.

While most agree that Isaac – who averaged 12 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.5 blocked shots and 1.2 steals a game in his lone season at Florida State – has a bright future, the 19-year-old forward isn’t fooled that he is some sort of finished product. Speaking like someone well beyond his years, Isaac said that he has lots of growing to do – both physically and mentally – before becoming the kind of cornerstone player that the Magic can build around.

That was music to the ears of Weltman, who told Isaac that his only goal for his rookie season should be to be the hardest worker on the Magic’s roster. His work ethic, Isaac stressed, will never be a question mark and that should allow him to ultimately reach the heights that analysts such as ESPN’s Legler think he can hit someday.

``I understand that it’s a process and I’m not where I want to be. I don’t think momentum just shifted in a split second. It takes times to turn things around and it’s going to take time because it’s a process,’’ Isaac said Thursday night from Brooklyn – site of Thursday’s draft. ``I’m not saying it’s going to take five years and I have no intention of it taking five years, but I know it’s going to be a process and I’m going to work every day to help this team.’’

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