Jonathan Isaac's season is over, Orlando Magic president Jeff Weltman said in an interview with ESPN 580 Orlando's Scott Anez. The emerging forward , and while the Magic initially announced he'd be re-evaluated in 8-10 weeks, it became clear he'd likely be out much longer when they applied for a disabled player exception. They were denied the exception, per The Athletic's Shams Charania, but Weltman made it all but official in the radio interview.
"Jonathan's gone for the year," Weltman said, prompting a follow-up question: Is that definite?
"Yeah," Weltman said. "I never want to say a thousand percent, but I think we're not expecting him back, put it that way. And if we're pleasantly surprised, so be it. But the fact of the matter is Jonathan -- you know, the longer you're out, you're gonna get deconditioned. And we don't ever want to rush our guys back or put them in a position to get reinjured, God forbid. So we're taking a very cautious approach, as we always do."
Before crumpling to the floor and being put on a stretcher at Capitol One Arena in Washington, D.C., Isaac was well on his way to his first appearance on the All-Defensive Team. In 32 games, he averaged 12 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 1.6 seals in 29.7 minutes.
Isaac is easily Orlando's most important building block, and he doesn't turn 23 until October. He came into this season stronger, but did not appear to sacrifice any of his lateral quickness. On offense he remains more of a finisher than a creator, although he nudged his usage rate from 16.3 percent to 18.4 percent.
His upside is obvious: There aren't a ton of 6-foot-11 guys who move like guards, and Isaac has improved his ballhandling and shooting form. There is still room to grow -- Isaac only shot 33.3 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s this season, and he's far more comfortable attacking closeouts than creating an advantage off the dribble -- but the most unfortunate thing about the injury is that we didn't get to see how much progress he could make over the course of the season.
The Magic didn't make major moves at the trade deadline, but Isaac could return to a significantly different team next season. Evan Fournier can be a free agent, and Aaron Gordon's name will continue to pop up in trade rumors. Gordon and Isaac are an imposing defensive duo, but their offensive fit is questionable at best, especially if Orlando continues to play a center next to them. Weltman addressed the idea that they are redundant in the interview.
"That would probably be a question better asked of the coach," Weltman said. "I think that we've had success with both of those guys on the floor. They're both extremely talented, they're extremely hardworking, they're team-first guys and part of this comes from growing up and learning to play with one another and just learning and just developing their own games individually. That's something that we always continue to monitor and tweak, and it's not just those two. It's any combination of our players. How does it all fit together?"
The Magic are eighth in the East despite having lost eight of their past nine games. They're 20th in net rating and 29th in offensive rating, but, like many Steve Clifford-coached teams have before, they get by on the strength of their defense, rebounding and low turnover numbers. When they win, they usually win ugly. When you watch how hard they have to work to score, it is difficult to make the argument that the pieces fit. They were desperate for more spacing even before the Markelle Fultz experiment started, and they need more playmaking, too.
From a big-picture perspective, the rest of Orlando's season doesn't matter all that much. It would be nice if the Magic could see some more progress from Fultz and Mo Bamba, and it would be awesome if Gordon and Terrence Ross could raise their shooting percentages, but they are all but certainly going to lose in the first round again. The important question is how Weltman's front office will change the environment next season. It would be a shame if Isaac returned to a team that has the same glaring issues it had before the injury.