(First posted at RealGM)
Of all the prospects expected to be drafted in the top 10, Jonathan Isaac was the one given the smallest chance to showcase his skill-set on offense. As part of a veteran Florida State team that had Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Dwayne Bacon ahead of him in the pecking order, he had no shot creation responsibility/opportunity and posted only a 20.3% usage rate last season.
Nonetheless, the six-foot-10 combo forward is ranked ninth in the Draft Express’ top 100.
That’s the case because Isaac was given the chance to showcase his versatility on defense due to Florida State employing multiple coverages against the pick-and-roll and did well enough for most to envision him as a very valuable chess piece in an era of basketball where flexibility is starting to become a priority.
Isaac impressed the most as a defender close to the basket.
Playing pretty much the entire season as FSU’s second biggest player on the floor, with the exception of the times he actually played center in instances where his team went five-out to try coming back from behind, he was often tasked with helping protect the rim and showed good awareness rotating off the weak-side to act as the last line of defense.
The owner of a nine-foot standing reach and able to leap off the ground easily off two feet, Isaac averaged 2.3 blocks per 40 minutes last season and also put his seven-foot-one wingspan to use making plays in the passing lanes, as he averaged 1.8 steals per 40 minutes.
And despite a lean 205-pound frame that suggests he should be pushed around near the basket constantly, Isaac displayed encouraging toughness. No opponent took him to the post to truly test him but he held his own in the glass, proving himself attentive to his boxout responsibilities and not shying away from physicality – collecting 25.5% of opponents’ misses in his 839 minutes.
Isaac is well coordinated and has good agility for someone his size, which makes him an appealing option to be employed on pick-and-roll coverages that extend beyond the foul line; hedge-and-recover, trapping – something very important these days, given point guards who can hit pull-up three-pointers are in vogue.
The most prominent of these strategies nowadays is switching, though, and Isaac shows a lot of promise in that department as well.
Exchanging assignments midway through the shot clock or even picking up perimeter players for almost entire possessions, he’s proven himself able to bend his knees to get down in a stance, shuffle his feet out on an island and has the lateral quickness to keep pace with smaller players one-on-one.
Isaac lacks strength at this point of his development to contain dribble penetration when big wings drive right at him but with his massive standing reach, staying attached is all needs in order to be able to contest shots effectively. And he even flashed some ability to navigate over ball-screens at the point of attack.
Isaac also impressed with his ability to stunt inside in help defense, then sprint out to run a shooter off the three-point line, maintain his balance to prevent a free path to the goal and contest or intimidate a step-back pull-up.
Isaac’s role at Florida State was as a weak-side shooter and he was a good enough open shot shooter that he spaced the floor adequately. His mechanics seem like a pretty great foundation to build upon.
But he needs immediate work on speeding up his release and becoming a more aggressive shot taker, less hesitant against closeouts that shouldn’t be effective against someone with his high release.
After nailing 38.5% of his three-point shots through the first 20 games of the season, Isaac regressed some towards the end of the year. He ended up hitting 34.8% of his 89 three-point shots, at a pace of 4.2 attempts per 40 minutes, for his 32 appearances in college.
Aside from the slightly below average shooting percentage, Isaac also can’t be considered a particularly impressive shooter due to the lack of versatility in the shots he took. He wasn’t given any opportunities to come off screens, sprint to the ball on dribble hand-offs or take long bombs out of the pick-and-pop but his release doesn’t appear to be dynamic enough for him to be featured in such plays.
But as he did just about well enough on spot-ups, Isaac demanded closeouts and excelled at attacking them, driving smoothly on a straight line out of triple threat position and looking very fluid on one-dribble or two-dribble uncontested stop-and-pop pull-ups – 38 of his 74 makes at the basket were unassisted and he nailed 41% of his 61 two-point jumpers.
He flashed some ability to play above the rim as a target for lobs sneaking behind the defense on cuts but was not put in the pick-and-roll as a screener, so it’s tough to say how much of a threat he is diving to basket, though in the instances where he crashed the offensive glass, Isaac often showed he is not yet strong enough to go up explosively off two feet in a crowd.
But it’s even tougher to assess how much star potential he truly has, given he didn’t get the chance to create against a set defense in college.
Isaac ran some pick-and-roll and isolation on broken plays and when he managed to bring the ball up the court after grabbing a defensive rebound. He can make uncontested pull-ups if the defense simply gives him that shot but didn’t have many plays where he showed particularly impressive slashing ability; lacking an explosive first step, an advanced handle to get to good spots in the mid-range or snake his way to the basket through traffic and strength to maintain his balance through contact – averaging just 0.708 point per possession off the ball-screen.
Isaac also didn’t exhibit particularly impressive instincts passing on the move and wasn’t used as an asset to help facilitate offense from the elbow or the high post – assisting on just 7.7% of Florida State’s scores when he was on the floor and posting a head-scratching 0.77 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Isaac also hasn’t yet shown anything close to a robust enough post game to prevent the opponent from switching smaller players onto him comfortably, more often than not relying on fade-away face-up jumpers.
 According to our stats’ database
 According to kenpom.com
 According to sports-reference
 According to hoop-math
 According to research by Draft Express’ Mike Schmitz
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