Back in mid-August, I had the opportunity to speak with Magic second-year forward Jonathan Isaac over the phone.
Isaac was forced to sit out 55 games during his rookie season due to various injuries. Orlando ended up in the great tank race to the bottom, finishing the year with a forgettable 25-57 record.
Admittedly, I hadn’t seen Isaac play much his rookie season, but I knew with his size, agility, defensive instincts, offensive potential and youth, Isaac could eventually develop into an elite two-way player.
After speaking to Isaac and Magic player development coordinator Kevin Tiller for the story, it was clear that Isaac has the mentality and work ethic that will eventually help him fulfill his immense potential.
Wearing his blue plaid draft-day jacket, palms sweating and visibly nervous, Jonathan Isaac walks to the podium to give his first sermon.
“This season is the best season of my life, but I’m not playing right now,” the 20-year-old Magic rookie tells the audience on a Sunday morning in mid-January.
Isaac injured his right ankle just three weeks into the season and hasn’t been fully healthy since. To say his rookie year hasn’t gone according to plan would be an understatement.
“There’s insecurities, and there’s doubt in my mind,” he continues. “Like, what are people thinking about me? Are people calling me a bust behind my back? Are my teammates, like, When is Jonathan going to play?”
“And I’m in the best season of my life because I’m growing [spiritually],” he says as the church erupts in applause.
The jitters quickly melt away, and Isaac delivers a message—quite naturally and authentically—about receiving God’s blessings in 2018.
The sermon, streamed on YouTube, would later headline the NBA news cycle. Viewers commented, saying they were confused—what was this? And why?
Not playing and now misunderstood, on this mid-January morning, Jonathan Isaac is the most content he’s been in his life.
The question was posed on r/nba today (presumably because Sports Illustratedranked DeMar DeRozan and Jrue Holiday the 30th and 29th-best players, respectively, in the League), and I thought it was an interesting comparison.
DeMar has three more All-Star appearances and two more All-NBA selections. He was just traded for a top-five player in the League (when healthy) Kawhi Leonard.
And yet… I think most people would rather have Holiday as their 2-guard (myself included). Holiday is a better defender (by a mile), better shooter, and gets his offense without nearly as many plays or touches.
Should be interesting to note how these players compare as other outlets (*cough cough*) release their rankings over the next month.
The Raptors and Spurs are expected to make a trade call today regarding a deal centered around swapping Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan.
It’s a bold move for Toronto, one that could turn catastrophic if Leonard leaves Toronto after just one season. But with the Raptors’ potential as a team essentially capped out, it was a move Toronto had to make.
We’ve seen this situation before.
An All-NBA player with one year left on his deal (Paul George) tells his team that he wants to play for the Lakers.
The player is traded to a team not of his choosing (OKC), and a season-long recruitment period begins.
The Thunder ended up getting George to re-sign despite OKC not being on his radar a year earlier. Toronto is hoping for the same result with Kawhi.
Toronto is not a top free-agent destination for many reasons—being north of the border prime among them. The chances of signing an elite talent like Leonard would seem all but impossible in free agency.
Rather than going the rebuild route, Raptors GM Masai Ujiri is going all in. The price to get Leonard was high. But it was a necessary gamble.
Let me get this out the way right now: I’m a Bulls fan. I grew up in the Chicago area and got hooked on the NBA during Chicago’s second threepeat.
So I’m naturally rooting for this deal to work out in the Bulls’ favor. That said, I honestly think John Paxson and Gar Forman made the right decision to match Zach LaVine’s four-year, $78 million offer sheet from the Kings.
LaVine played just 24 games last season as he finished rehabbing an ACL tear from February of 2017. The Bulls then shut him down for the final 14 games of the season, as they tanked their way to the No. 7 overall pick in the 2018 Draft.
LaVine didn’t have much of a chance to hit his stride during his abbreviated 2017-2018 season, but he demonstrated his ability to become an elite scorer in the league.
A month shy of his 23rd birthday, he dropped 35 points in a clutch performance vs his former team. Only a handful of guards near LaVine’s age (Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, D’Angelo Russell) displayed a comparable offensive capacity last season.
Salary-wise, LaVine’s new deal most closely resembles Gary Harris’ four-year, $84 million extension with Denver. On average, LaVine will be making $1.5 million less than Harris per season and is the superior scorer.
The knock against LaVine has been his defensive deficiencies (which are especially apparent when comparing to a player like Harris). That said, he has the physical tools to improve on that end of the court. And his tireless work ethic will help him get there.
LaVine has potential to become a multiple-time All-Star and an elite scorer. He wants the responsibility of taking big shots. And most importantly, he’s a leader in the Bulls’ locker room.
The opportunity to sign a player like LaVine—who exhibits all the traits and abilities you want in a young player—doesn’t come around often.
It’s a gamble, especially given LaVine’s ACL injury, but certainly one worth taking.
Before we declare the Warriors the 2019 NBA champions and call the regular season and playoffs a mere formality, let’s take a step back.
Of course, with DeMarcus Cousins—even a less-than-100-percent Cousins—the Warriors have upgraded in a major way. On paper, they have five All-NBA caliber players—a group more talented than the League has ever seen.
And while the Warriors’ incumbent stars are uniquely selfless players, it remains to be seen how well Boogie will integrate with the Golden State roster.
For the past five seasons, Cousins has had one of the highest usage rates in the NBA—above 31 percent for the past five seasons.
The ball generally stops when it gets to Boogie. Will he be able to change his game and play Warriors-style basketball?
What happens if he’s not putting up stats that would necessitate a max-level deal next summer?
If this was 2K, the Warriors would be unstoppable. But in reality, Boogie is the type of player and personality that could actually hinder Golden State more than help.
This is some text about Kevin Durant and this sweet jersey switch. If there’s a better player on this team, please let me know. It looks like they’re going to have something to cheer for with a great young core.
Once they get rid of the deadbeats that comprise about 80 percent of the roster, they’ll be in business. Oh, and don’t forget about the ace they have up their sleeve – Saer Sene. He’s a great defensive center who’s game is still very raw. But with one more year of improvement and development, this cat could be a starting center in the NBA.
In the interest of writing more text, I have to put-out another interesting wonder. What if Oklahoma City is the new New Orleans? I mean, what if this young, up-and-coming squad made the city fall in love with professional basketball? For a long time, New Orleans couldn’t give a care about the Hornets. Until the All-Star Game, I dubbed the team’s crowd the sorriest in the NBA.
However, the Hornets are officially on the NBA map, and should have an excellent following next year and for years to come. I can only see the similarities in Oklahoma City. Right now, it’s tough to say if the Barons will get more support than OSU. However, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green and Durant will provide some excitement for many seasons.
There’s a very real possibility that another transplanted NBA team will win the hearts of its new city.