(First posted at RealGM)
Jonathan Isaac is perceived as the prototypical big wing for this Era of versatility-driven basketball. On the surface, the six-foot-10 combo forward can spot up on the weak-side, run offense against big men who aren’t used to guarding in the perimeter and shoot over smaller players in the post, then make plays at the rim defending close to the basket and pick up smaller players on switches.
But that’s mostly potential for now.
On a Florida State team that has won 18 of its 20 games so far and currently ranks 14th on Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted efficiency margin, Isaac’s role is as a floor spacer without a lot of shot creation responsibility against a set defense, as he’s posted only a 21.9% usage rate – according to basketball-reference. That’s why he hasn’t done enough tangibly to reach the top five on Draft Express’ top 100 yet.
That said, Isaac has shown flashes of the player he’s dreamed of eventually becoming, even playing some center in a few situations Florida State was trying to come from behind. The consensus expectation among draftniks seems to be that he will eventually establish himself a top five pick during the period of workout sessions.
Isaac’s top skill at this point of his development is spotting up away from the ball and working against a scrambling defense as a stretch four.
He has a long dip on his catch-and-shoot jumper, which slows down his release a little and makes him mostly an open-shot shooter as of now. But the touch in his shot is great and he fully extends himself for a high release that makes it tough for opponents to contest him effectively. Isaac has nailed 38.5% of his 52 three-point shots this season, while averaging 4.9 attempts per 40 minutes.
He’s also shown a great-looking stroke on one-dribble pull-ups after pump-faking to escape a closeout, nailing 48.3% of his 29 two-point jumpers – according to hoop-math.
Isaac hasn’t shown anything in terms of being able to come off screens, sprint to the ball to launch long bombs off dribble-handoffs or in the pick-and-pop, though.
Off the bounce, he has flashed a nice first step on side isolations attacking off ball reversals and has long strides to get all the way to the basket. Isaac’s taken 41.7% of his attempts at the rim and drawn 6.4 foul shots per 40 minutes, in large part in the half-court via opportunities to drive off these catch-and-go’s.
At the basket, he can’t finish through contact and hasn’t shown much ability to adjust his body in the air but has flashed an euro-step to navigate traffic in the lane and does use his seven-foot-one wingspan fairly well for extended finishes against rim protectors – as he’s converted his shots within close range at a 70.7% clip.
Isaac hasn’t yet developed the ability to get to the rim handling the ball against a set defense.
He can’t get by his man on speed, doesn’t have any dribble moves to shake his defender side-to-side, can’t maintain his balance through contact on straight line drives and has a loose handle that makes him prone to getting the ball stripped in traffic. His 14.5% turnover rate is quite high in the context of his 21.9% usage rate.
Isaac also struggles creating his own shot out of the pick-and-roll. He isn’t able to turn the corner when he is forced to his left and hasn’t shown much in terms of changing speeds or being able to make stop-and-pop jumpers in rhythm.
Isaac has, however, flashed some very appealing passing off the ball-screen. He’s played with nice pace against big men able to defend above the foul line and proved himself able to hit his screener diving to the lane with good timing. But as a reflection of how little he runs offense, Isaac has assisted on just 7.2% of Florida State’s scores when he’s been on the floor.
For the most part, whether it’s in isolation or out of the pick-and-roll, Isaac looks for step-back pull-ups when he’s handling the ball. Given his length, few wings and even big men at the college level can contest him that well.
He has not been given any real opportunity to show whether he can burn switches in the post.
Isaac has defended mostly close to the basket in college and he’s been an impact defender in this role.
He’s proven very attentive to his rotation responsibilities coming off the weak-side in help defense and can elevate off two feet with some explosiveness to make plays above the rim, as he’s averaged 2.4 blocks per 40 minutes.
Though he doesn’t have enough strength to be very physical due to his thin 210-pound frame in the context of his six-foot-10 height, Isaac is also very attentive to his boxout responsibilities, can leap off the ground quickly and has a nine-foot standing reach to high point the ball – collecting 24.8% of opponents’ misses when he’s on the floor.
His ability to rebound and bring the ball up the court to initiate offense is exactly what teams are looking for in their big men these days.
The issue is when Isaac is forced to matchup against old school bruising types. He’s unable to play stout post defense at this point, gets happy feet to try making up for his inability to hold ground and is prone to biting on fakes and making himself vulnerable to fouling.
Florida State doesn’t switch all that aggressively but Isaac has found himself guarding smaller players from time to time. He can bend his knees to get low in a stance, has shown enough lateral quickness to stay in front of wings in space and is a legit threat to pickpocket them thanks to his reach – as he’s averaged 2.1 steals per 40 minutes.
Isaac can’t stay in front of point guards out in an island but uses his long strides to keep pace with them on straight line drives and his length to contest them near the basket trailing from the back.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara