Early last February, Jonathan Isaac made waves when he tried to become the first U.S. player to go directly from high school to the NBA draft since the league instituted its “one-and-done” rule with the 2005 collective bargaining agreement. Since Isaac spent a fifth-year of high school at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida and was also 19, he had a decent argument to enter the NBA draft.
Jonathon Givony of DraftExpress put the rumors to rest when clarifying the rules to enter the draft mean a year removed from graduating high school. Since Isaac had spent a year at a prep school, he didn’t qualify to enter the draft. In Isaac’s initial attempt to enter it, teams had him projected between 14 to 24 on boards, which says something about his potential, despite not playing a college game last year.
It’s hard to blame Isaac for looking into joining the 2016 draft class out of high school — it did end up working for current Bucks big man Thon Maker — and Isaac has arguably as much natural talent as Maker. At 6’10.5” with a 7’1.25” wingspan, Isaac has ideal size and length for a modern-day combo forward. He’s explosive and quick on the wing at that size, with excellent ball handling ability and a projectable (albeit improvable) jump shot.
But Isaac knows he’s not ready for the physicality of the NBA. He chose to go to Florida State to help him add the weight necessary to prepare and improve on both ends of the court.
“My deciding factor was to look at myself and realize I’m not ready,” Isaac told Jim Halley of USA Today. “I have a lot of lot of ways to go, a lot of work to do. My strength has been kind of my Achilles’ heel in basketball, so I need to work on my strength. When I took my visit to Florida State, it seemed their strength and conditioning program was great, so it was easy to make that decision.”
Isaac’s biggest weakness as a prospect is his long and lean frame (just 205 pounds) that hasn’t managed to add much weight after sprouting seven inches throughout high school. The former guard is still growing into his body and skillset and is very inconsistent overall in his play, which could lead to an up-and-down freshman season.
But there’s a lot to like from Isaac, who has two-way potential thanks to his athletic traits and size. A team will need to be patient and take the time he needs to develop, because the tools are there for him to be a potential All-Star.
He was one of the most impressive prospects this summer at the Nike Hoop Summit and Jordan Brand Classic, and scouts are certainly starting to take notice as he’s projected fifth overall on NBADraft.net and 12th on DraftExpress. His tools and size make him a top-ten prospect entering this collegiate season, and he should have an opportunity to learn from another potential lottery pick in swingman Dwayne Bacon about how to have success early on.
Isaac has the right mindset going forward. He certainly isn’t going to settle when he’s projected as a first-round pick, or even in the lottery.
“It’s a blessing to be playing in front of (NBA scouts),” Isaac told USA Today. “It’s kind of overwhelming because it’s the first time I’ve played in front of them. Those (mock drafts) tell me I have a lot of work to do because I don’t want to be Top 10. I want to be No. 1.”
If he can figure out a way to add some weight to his frame, and find his niche on the offensive end of the court, the skies the limit for Isaac and his NBA potential. While he is already 19 years old as a true freshman, there’s a lot of growth to be done for Isaac in both skillset and frame. If he figures it out quickly, expect his stock to rise throughout this 2016-17 season.