Jonathan Isaac arrived in Tallahassee with sky high expectations, a top-10 recruit expected to help turn around a Florida State team that hadn't made the NCAA tournament since 2012.
While the Seminoles faltered down the stretch, dropping five of their final ten games, including a blowout loss to Xavier in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the team finished with 26 wins on the season, the most in the Lenoard Hamilton era. Isaac was a big part of that, stuffing the stat sheet with averages of 12.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 1.2 assists, and 1.2 steals per game, while starting every game.
Isaac's intrigue starts with his rare physical tools and defensive potential. Measuring just under 6'11 in shoes at last year's Nike Hoop Summit, with a 7'1" wingspan and a standing reach slightly over 9'. Isaac augments that length for a forward with athleticism you don't typically find in someone his size.
That combines to create one of the more unique defensive prospects in the draft, with the size and reach of a power forward or center, but the perimeter foot speed to switch onto guards. It's something you saw him do regularly at Florida State, where they had him switch onto, and hold his own against, point guards with a frequency that seems almost absurd for a near-6'11" prospect. He was also able to make use of those gifts to the tune of 2.2 blocks and 1.7 steals per 40 minutes, pace adjusted, showing off his ability to cover ground and the quick twitch reflexes which can make him such a versatile playmaker on that side of the court. That places Isaac with the top block rate among small forwards in our top-100 database, while also coming in the top-five in steals.
Beyond the sheer length and athleticism to chase down blocks from the weakside or force turnovers on the perimeter, Isaac also displays impressive quick foot speed on the perimeter. He does a good job of getting down in a stance and moving his feet, and has the length and quickness to recover and contest a shot if he elects to sag off his man on the perimeter. This gives him both the ability to pressure ball handlers with his length to try to force turnovers, but also the option to play back, cut off driving angles, and recover if he's at a quickness disadvantage.
While Isaac can at times get caught on misdirections and pump fakes, something that should improve with experience, that combination length, athleticism, quick feet on the perimeter, and the effort and technique to utilize them gives him real positional versatility defensively, something which coaches at the next level will likely love.
Isaac was a contributor on the glass for the Seminoles, hauling in 8.9 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes, pace adjusted, which accounted for 25% of the available defensive rebounding opportunities while he was on the court, with a consistent effort level and the physical tools needed to rebound out of his area. While not a terribly advanced ball handler, Isaac does have the ability to push the ball in transition himself from time to time, yet another way he can help improve a team's transition game. Still, his rail thin frame and lack of physicality hurts him in this regard, and he'll regularly get pushed around on the glass by bigger and stronger competition, even at the college level.
Offensively, Isaac shows some intriguing skills, but they're displayed relatively inconsistently. Most of his opportunities come off the ball at this stage, either in spot-up situations, transition, cuts to the basket, or offensive rebounds.
The most projectable skill in Isaac's offensive repertoire is as a jump shooter, where he shot 34.8% from three-point range (on 89 attempts) and 78% from the free-throw line (on 118 attempts). These numbers were higher for most of the season, but a late season slump saw him shoot just 30% from three over his final 15 appearances.
The form on his jump shot gives hope that it's a weapon he can continue to improve upon down the line, as the ball comes out of his wrist smoothly, with proper rotation and a high release point. He also seemed to get slightly better at his pre-shot preparation as the season wore on, doing a better job of stepping into the shot and speeding up his release a bit. His shot can get a little flat, which might cause some growing pains as he adapts to NBA distance, but there's nothing overtly flawed about it, which would suggest major concerns going forward.
Isaac has also shown the ability to use one or two dribbles into a pull-up jumper, which he does so under control and with good balance. His ball handling needs further refinement to really be a creator off of either isolation or pick and roll sets, but he does have enough confidence in it to use his athleticism to attack closeouts, and once he gets one or two steps and builds up steam downhill, his ability to elevate around the rim at an elite level really shines. It's also something which could become a bigger weapon for him if his perimeter shot continues to become more consistent and he continues to develop his core strength to handle contact at the rim better. Even so, Isaac shot 64.2% on half-court shots at the rim, according to Synergy Sports Technology, a number which shows both his selectivity as an offensive weapon and his ability to elevate around the basket.
The rest of Isaac's offensive game is mostly as a hustle player. His athleticism is a real weapon in transition, sometimes even pushing the ball himself after forcing a turnover or grabbing a defensive rebound, but more often filling a lane as he beats his man down the court. He moves well off the ball, leading to some impressive displays of athleticism as he gets a head of steam towards the rim, something he doesn't do quite as much of off the dribble because the ball still slows him down somewhat. He's also a hard worker on the offensive glass, pulling in 2.6 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes, pace adjusted, which he converts at a high rate because of how quickly he gets off the ground. One thing that does impact Isaac a little bit in this role is that his hands aren't very big, and he can sometimes struggle to pull in rebounds in traffic he otherwise worked his way into position for because of it.
Refining his ball handling, speeding up his release off the dribble, and adding strength to better finish inside would all go a long way towards making Isaac a more diversified offensive weapon. Perhaps the biggest hindrance to him becoming a primary offensive option for a team is his mentality, as he came off as being very passive within Florida State's offense, not being assertive enough when he found himself open and passing up open opportunities when the ball did swing his way. There would be times where a half would go by and you'd barely notice his presence on the court offensively. While that mindset a willingness to give consistent defensive effort regardless of offensive touches, not demand the ball himself, and not force bad shots could help him in a path to become a real legitimate Three-and-D option, you have to wonder if it might prevent him from unleashing his full offensive potential.
Jonathan Isaac is an interesting case. He's one of the more unique, and possibly impactful, defensive prospects in this draft, with a combination of playmaking, length, athleticism, effort, and versatility that you don't find very often. That kind of role, especially i he can make that three-point shot a consistent part of his game to spread the floor, is an incredibly valuable one for teams to fill, especially as more and more coaches want to switch anything they can on the perimeter. Isaac fits that archetype to a T.
Yet it's also possible, for as valuable as Isaac can become in that role, that you'd be left wondering whither he's reached his full potential offensively. Even so, that shouldn't cloud the value he can bring as a versatile, playmaking, unique three-and-D forward. Regardless of the concern over reaching his offensive potential, he's likely to be drafted high in the 2017 draft because of how valued his role has become, and how few projections you have to make in order to see him filling that role effectively.