Magic Forward Projected to Compete With Victor Wembanyama for DPOY Next Season

Jonathan Isaac

Getty Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic.

After leading the NBA in blocks in his rookie season, Victor Wembanyama is poised to become a perennial contender for Defensive Player of the Year over the next decade.

And, while Wembanyama’s defensive upside is through the roof, that doesn’t mean the path to DPOY will be easy. The Athletic’s Mo Dakhil predicted Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic will have a real shot at competing with Wembanyama for Defensive Player of the Year next season “if he gets regular start minutes.”

Dakhil tweeted a pair of video highlights showing Isaac’s efforts against the Milwaukee Bucks in the Magic’s 113-88 win on April 14, captioning one of them: “He’s been everywhere defensively.”

In a repost, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor said he agreed that Isaac would be a lock for All-Defensive team if he gets more playing time next season.

Isaac, a former starter for the Magic in 2018-19 and 2019-20, averaged 15.8 minutes a game coming off the bench for Orlando in 2023-24.

Isaac has started three straight games, including two games against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. In the two playoff games, both losses, he is averaging 24.0 minutes and 4.5 rebounds but had a plus/minus rating of -13 in Game 1 and -10 in Game 2.

Jonathan Isaac Is the ‘Best Defensive Player in the World’

ESPN’s Zach Lowe and David Thorpe also recognized Isaac’s defensive prowess.

“It’s the most exciting thing happening in the NBA right now,” Lowe said on the April 1 episode of “The Lowe Post” podcast. “You watch the Magic, and this dude is hitting 3s. He’s more comfortable off the dribble, and his defense is like having seven defensive players on the floor.”

Thorpe said he agreed, even suggesting that Isaac may be better than Wembayama in his current version because of his quickness, which allows him to stay in front of shifty guards and wingmen.

Isaac, a 6-foot-11 forward with a 7-foot-11 wingspan, averaged 6.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 0.7 steals in just 15 minutes per game in the regular season, per ESPN stats/info.

Despite his elite defensive acumen, Isaac has been criticized for being injury-prone. He played just 69 games over the last two seasons after undergoing multiple surgeries to repair a torn ACL and then a torn left adductor muscle, injuries that caused him to miss two full seasons.

Jonathan Isaac Is a Possible Free Agent This Summer

Isaac, 26, will enter the final year of a four-year, $69 million deal he signed with the Magic in 2021.

Many analysts believed he could hit the free agency market this summer because the fourth year of his deal worth $17 million is non-guaranteed.

The Magic are rumored to pursue several shooters in the free agency market, which could require freeing up several non-guaranteed deals on their payroll, including that of Isaac.

The Spurs will also have a significant cap space this summer. Many basketball pundits believe the Spurs’ top objective should be to improve their backcourt, but a Wembanyama-Isaac frontcourt tandem would be a frightening sight for the rest of the league.