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Stiffs NBA Draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac

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Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac is the answer to all of Denver’s problems...if they can get him.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Stiffs will be covering the top prospects for the Denver Nuggets in the 2017 NBA Draft in our Stiffs Prospect Watch series. Check back daily for video, stats, and analysis of top first round prospects.

Jonathan Isaac

Stats

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers Field Goal % Three point % Free throw %
Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers Field Goal % Three point % Free throw %
16.3 7.4 3.0 1.7 1.1 2.8 51.30% 37.80% 56.60%

Strengths

Physical profile and agility

Jonathan Isaac looks and acts like a prototypical stretch four in the NBA today. With the height and length to match up with most centers and the speed to keep up with small forwards, Isaac should settle in at power forward and make a huge impact. He has received some Kevin Durant comparisons with regard to his body type, and while he isn’t that long, he will use his tools on both ends to impact the entire length of the floor.

Defensive stopper potential

Isaac showed the necessary skills and defensive acumen at Florida State to excite NBA scouts about his role at the next level defensively. With excellent tendencies off-ball to always shield his man and know exactly when to rotate, he could potentially be a terror in the mold of Draymond Green. On the ball, he still has work to do, but then he makes plays like this against top offensive talent in college basketball that make you wonder what his ceiling could be.

Elite role player potential on offense

Some draft guys were unhappy that Isaac wasn’t very assertive at Florida State and letting others create for him. I’m exactly the opposite. It should be lauded that Isaac didn’t force the issue and focused on the offense that worked for his skill set at the time. He showed some creation skills, but the majority of his role offensively should be off-ball as a floor spacer, cutter, and potential mismatch target in the post. Isaac showed enough promise in each of these categories during the year, and teams should be excited about his willingness to adapt to the offense and his personal role.

Weaknesses

Inconsistent jump shot

Isaac is still adjusting to NBA range, and it shows in both his upper body mechanics and the simple trajectory of his shot. Isaac often doesn’t miss left or right on his shot, but more so on the front or back of the rim. According to Draft Express, Isaac is a career 31.8% 3-point shooter dating back to high school/AAU days, and it’s not surprising. The typical “athletic phenom” on the wing struggles with their jump shot initially. The good news is that Isaac shot 78.0% from the free throw line, meaning there is a baseline for an accurate jumper in the future.

Playmaking

Like I alluded to earlier, Isaac ceded playmaking touches to other members of his Florida State team. Some of it was because of him being smart and not forcing the issue, but some of it is just him not having a developed floor sense offensively. His handle is too high, and he telegraphs passes out of the pick and roll. If he is to play power forward in the NBA, this shouldn’t be as much of an issue, but it would still be nice to see him improve. If he sticks at small forward instead, limited playmaking ability could be damning to his ceiling.

Fit with the Denver Nuggets

Isaac fits like Cinderella’s slipper. There is no better match between team and player in this draft than Isaac and the Nuggets. Nikola Jokic is in need of a long, athletic, defensive-minded power forward who can still space the floor. Isaac was ranked second in my defensive power rankings of draft eligible players this year, and if he learns to shoot, look out. The question with Denver isn’t whether they would take him if he was available (they would), but rather how long Isaac will last.

Projected draft spot

SB Nation - 7

Draft Express - 6

CBSsports - 7 (Forgrave), 7 (Parish)

Sporting News - 7

Final Thoughts

The Nuggets need defense, floor spacing, and more athleticism at the forward position this year, and Isaac absolutely fits the bill. Many in Denver, including Denver Stiffs’ own Adam Mares, believes Denver should go all-in on trading up for the Florida State product. I happen to agree with him. The Nuggets genuinely need a dynamic power forward of the future, and I don’t think the answer is Juancho Hernangomez (at least at the 4). Isaac would provide a new dimension to the roster that no player except Nikola Jokic brings to the table.

A consensus seems to be forming that Isaac doesn’t fall past the Minnesota Timberwolves at 7, and for the Nuggets sake, Denver can’t let that happen. Adding Isaac to a core of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, and Kris Dunn not only improves Minnesota defensively long term, but it likely upgrades the offense too. Denver should do themselves a favor and attempt to leapfrog the Wolves to acquire Isaac. Doing so would not only hurt the Wolves’ long term outlook, but depending on who Denver gives up in a deal, it would help the Nuggets.

I’m all in on Jonathan Isaac in this class, and I hope the Nuggets are making calls to acquire him rather than focusing too hard on Blake Griffin.