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Minnesota Timberwolves NBA Draft Profile: Jonathan Isaac

The Minnesota Timberwolves need a long term answer to their power forward problem. Enter potential draft pick Jonathan Isaac.

Jonathan Isaac is a risky pick but may turn out to have the highest upside of all the players available with the seventh pick in the upcoming 2017 NBA draft. Isaac is a 6’11 205 pound forward who spent one year at Florida State University helping them achieve their most wins ever under Coach Hamilton. Isaac averaged 12 points and 8 rebounds a game while shooting almost 60% from the floor and 35% from three-point range. Isaac has the potential to be one of the more versatile two-way players in the league with his defensive upside and offensive versatility.

Defensive breakdown

Isaac greatest skill is his physical gifts which make him a versatile defenders rarely seen in the draft. With a 7 foot wingspan, Isaac has both length and athleticism unseen for a player his size. He is able to use his size and length to protect the rim, and this showed in the numbers as he averaged 2.2 blocks per 40 minutes. Outside of the numbers, Isaac defensive game is aesthetically pleasing as he has the reflexes and pace to chase down or contest shots. More fascinating is his ability to switch in the pick and roll and guard point guards on the perimeter while staying in front of the offensive player. His long wingspan makes him a terror when defending ball handlers as Isaac gets the correct hand in passing lanes, and this shows as he averaged 2 steals a game per 40 minutes.

Isaac is also a good rebounder and has the potential to be a double double threat nightly in the NBA as he has the inherent understanding of where to stand to get a rebound and when to box out. Isaac averaged 8 rebounds a game, and, if he continues to fill out his body, this will improve as he can be pushed out-of-the-way due to his lack of strength. To take his game to the next level, Isaac needs to be more active on the offensive glass, and, once Isaac secures the rebound, he needs to make the right play.

One concern is his frail frame for a forward of his size as he only weighs 205 pounds and was posted up often on defense. Bruising big men easily established position deep in the paint and finished over Isaac easily with jump hooks. If Isaac is unable to get significantly stronger, then he will be a liability on the defensive end as coaches will seek to post up Isaac at every possibly opportunity. Any team that drafts him will have to understand that he is a long-term prospect who needs time to grow. The Wolves have the luxury that Isaac will not be expected to come in and be the best player straight away, and his defensive upside will be enough for Isaac to see good minutes.

Offensive Breakdown

Offensively, Isaac is more of a work in progress as he is an inconsistent offensive player who shows flashes of the ability to be a threat attacking and shooting the basketball. Isaac’s ability as a jump shooter is promising as his form is good enough that it can be used effectively as he has good wrist rotation and releases the ball at the correct angle. Isaac shot 35% from three, and, if he can maintain this in the NBA, then he will be a useful 3 and D player for a long time because he shoots well enough for defenders to respect his shot. If they choose to play the numbers and sag off him, then Isaac is a good enough shooter to knock down open shots. His form is also good when Isaac goes to the free throw line where he shots 78%. Isaac averaged a respectable 4 trips to the line a game.

Isaac also uses his length and size as a devastating weapon on the offensive end as he can grab defensive rebounds and beat his defender down the court and finish above the rim. Occasionally, Isaac can push the ball down the court, but he still needs to work on his handle in the half-court as he averaged two turnovers a game which is due to him losing his handle in traffic.

Isaac’s overall feel of the game needs some work as he needs to learn when to pass the ball and when to be aggressive and attack the basket. He averaged more turnovers than assists, but this is less of an issue projecting forward as he improves his handle and makes the right pass moving forward. If he can work on his handle, then Isaac can be a real threat in the pick and roll and on isolation plays facing up defenders.

Comparison and Fit in Minnesota

Isaac has the potential to be an all-defensive player in the NBA for a long time, and his versatility when guarding players is his best attribute. The ability to guard players on the perimeter and inside the paint is a valuable skill that each team, especially the Wolves, need. A front court of Towns and Isaac has the potential to be one of the most versatile we have ever seen, and this will be an issue for opposing coaches as Towns and Isaac will be able to switch onto smaller guards without too much of an issue.

The excellent Kevin Pelton of ESPN releases a projected wins above replacement for college players to unearth players who the statistics  say are future stars in the league. In this ranking, Isaac ranked third and was compared to Rashard Lewis but most exciting is the the upper limit comparison which was Kevin Durant. Isaac will probably never become a transcendent offensive player in the league, but, if he can fully realize his offensive potential and combine that with his excellent defense, then he may end up as a perennial All-NBA player. If the chips fall the way they should, then Isaac should be available with the number seven pick, and, by the end of the night, he should be wearing a Timberwolves draft hat.

Mustafa Noor

Mustafa Noor

Writer at Runner sports
London based writer covering the Minnesota Timberwolves for the runner sports. Mustafa is well aware that the Timberwolves have not made the playoffs for 13 straight years
Mustafa Noor