Expect a big, defensive-minded lineup for the Orlando Magic this season

Orlando Magic
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic may have caused many people to scratch their heads with their first-round picks of the last two NBA Drafts, selecting big men Jonathan Isaac (2017) and Mo Bamba (2018) in consecutive years. Isaac and Bamba are both two big men that most would assume would collide for playing time at the center position, but if the Summer League taught us anything, it’s that these two will be able to coexist. 

The decision of going with two big men that have tremendous upside was for a great reason. 

In an NBA where teams are looking to go smaller with an emphasis on quick scoring and offensive production, the Magic are looking to go big. 

Under new head coach Steve Clifford, the Magic will be looking to bring a heavy dose of length and size with other veterans like Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Simmons.

It would be a scary long lineup to have Simmons at the shooting guard position, with Aaron Gordon at small forward, and Isaac and Bamba at the four and five spots respectively. The thing about Bamba and Isaac is that they are both so athletic that the ability to switch is a strength for both players.

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It seems like Bamba and Isaac are excited for the opportunity to play alongside each other.

“The potential between me and (Isaac) is unreal, I think in Summer League we’re starting to bridge that potential into production with the small things we do,” Bamba said. “I think we got three 24-second shot clock violations (against Memphis).”

“I don’t think that it even scratches the surface in terms of where Mo is going to be in a year or two years, where I’m going to be in a year or two years — physically, mentally, game-wise,” Isaac said afterward. “You throw in A.G. and all those guys that we have on our team now, and I think we will be a defensive nightmare for a lot of teams.”

After finally becoming healthy,  Jonathan Isaac showed promise in the Summer League. He has gotten seemingly stronger, but also seems to mold into the flow of the game better, adjusting to the pace much cleaner than in the previous season. 

The sophomore provided 21 points in their first game against Brooklyn and continued his stellar play in a big win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Isaac added 12 points and seven rebounds along with five blocked shots.

While Isaac and Bamba seem to be a massive defensive presence for Orlando, Isaac still has plenty to improve on offensively.

His jump shot seems to have improved but is still looking like a liability. Down low, he has still yet to find that ‘go-to’ move that most big men in the NBA have. Over a three-game span, Isaac averaged over 14 points and seven rebounds, but only shot 35% from the floor.

For a big man, that is horrendous, but with him working on his jump shot mostly, you can understand why it is so low. A bright spot for Isaac is the 2.7 blocks he averaged over the three-game span, showing that the defensive presence is there. It’s just how he will show up on the offensive end that can help his sophomore season become something very special.

Another thing to take a look at this upcoming season is the way Mo Bamba could spread the floor for the Magic at his size, creating more opportunity for guys like Isaac in the paint. He shot 60% from the field this Summer League, particularly showing his range versus the Grizzlies.

Between Bamba and Isaac, Bamba seems to be more gifted offensively at the moment, but on the defensive end, the twin towers could be in full effect.

Even in a poor offensive showing versus the Phoenix Suns and No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton, Bamba produced five blocks.

It seems that the decision to go with back-to-back big men in consecutive NBA Drafts could work out in Orlando’s favor.

The chemistry between Isaac and Bamba is already developing so they could be on the floor together more than some would think. With the emphasis on length and size, the Magic are still in a need of more shooting, but it will be fun to see how the Magic look going about their season in a different manner than most NBA teams.


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