ORLANDO - The Magic were thrilled when Wes Iwundu fell to them in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft. They were also ecstatic when they were able to snag Isaiah Briscoe, an undrafted point guard out of Kentucky who played professionally in Estonia last season, on the free agent market.
What we’ve learned about both of them is that they are sneaky good defenders. Iwundu’s length, quickness and instincts gives opponents fits, while Briscoe’s toughness, tenacity and relentlessness has also helped Orlando become an elite defensive team in recent weeks.
Take what you can from it as it’s not always a great way to measure a player’s defensive abilities and impact, but the two reserves’ defensive field goal percentages have been extraordinarily good lately.
In the last 10 games before the All-Star break combined, opponents shot 32.3 percent from the floor and 22.2 percent from 3-point range when Iwundu was the closest defender, per Second Spectrum tracking data. Opponents against Briscoe, who leads the team in charges drawn despite appearing in only 35 games so far, shot 34.8 and 27.6 percent, respectively, when he was the closest defender during this stretch.
What’s amazing about this team is that there isn’t a weak defender on the roster. Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac, you could argue, are already Defensive Player of the Year candidates. Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier are two of the most underrated defenders in the league. Terrence Ross is one of the NBA’s best at contesting 3-pointers, Mo Bamba and Khem Birch are elite rim protectors and D.J. Augustin is always willing to sacrifice his body.
Having so many versatile, and “switchable,” defenders makes it easier for Steve Clifford to toy with different lineups. It’s almost impossible for opponents to find mismatches.
Check out a pair of excellent defensive plays by Iwundu from Friday’s game against the Bulls: