With both players heading into their fourth year in the league, they were eligible for rookie extensions, and the Magic got them both done, keeping each out of restricted free agency next summer. That likely favors the Magic, who could’ve been at a slight disadvantage to keep both due to the amount of teams who currently project to have cap space next summer.
That being said, both deals come with some inherent risk for the Magic.
Fultz, who after two rocky years in Philadelphia, had a breakout year of sorts in Orlando, averaging 12.1 points, 5.1 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game. After playing in just 33 games combined in his first two years, the electrifying point guard missed just one game last season, playing in 72 regular season games, including 60 starts.
While it was good to see Fultz stay healthy and show flashes, there are still things to be concerned about.
His shooting still has a long way to go for him to become consistent on that end, and he has moments where he’s too tentative in the offense. As the league has transitioned into a heavy reliance on point guards who can not only score, but also create for others, Fultz seemed to have too many moments where he might not take advantage of a matchup, or find a way to get a bucket when his team may need one.
That’s going to be the next step in his development this season under Steve Clifford. Fultz has to be more in command of the offense, especially with rookie Cole Anthony behind him, and show that he can do the things he showed off last season on a regular basis.
While Fultz will be out on the court, Isaac will be on the sidelines rehabbing from a torn ACL. Not being on the court is becoming an all too familiar thing for Isaac, who has played in more than 34 games just once in his three seasons.
A myriad of lower leg injuries has slowed Isaac, from an ankle injury in his rookie season, to a knee injury last, the versatile forward has been unable to stay on the floor.
When he’s been on the floor, however, Isaac has oozed potential, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Not only has he shown an ability to protect the rim and block shots, but the 6-foot-10 forward has also shown flashes of being a lock down defender on the perimeter, slowing down smaller wings, and using his physicality to take others, like Toronto’s Pascal Siakam, off of their spots.
The biggest issue for Isaac, who I think has the most “star” potential on this Magic roster, is staying healthy. The Magic have had their issues in the past with players who struggled to stay healthy due to lower leg injuries — hello, Grant Hill — and committing this kind of money right now is definitely an interesting decision for the Magic who have tied a lot of their cap space to Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross, and Aaron Gordon already.
Now, if Isaac can end up staying healthy and continue to show the rapid signs of growth he has when he’s been on the court, this could be a steal for the Magic.
Nonetheless, both of these deals are calculated risks for Orlando.
It’s not clear if Markelle Fultz will ever become even a league average shooter — which he admittedly might not need to do with his ability to get to the basket seemingly at will — but teams will be able to zero in on that more if he doesn’t become a better shooter. He’s also only 22-years-old, and will likely continue to progress over this season and next, so it’ll be hard to gauge just how good of a deal the Magic got right away.
Jonathan Isaac has the potential to be a Defensive Player of the Year type, but his inability to stay healthy has to be concerning. Could the injuries and lack of playing time slow down his development not only on that end, but offensive as well? Or could more extended time off help Isaac see the game better and understand it in a more in-depth way?
Ultimately, the Magic made two moves that they needed to make before the start of the season. It makes a lot of sense to lock both Fultz and Isaac up long-term, but it’s still two moves that come with some risk, and it’s risks that the Magic are willing to take.