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Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz set to return as the Magic play their final scrimmage

The Orlando Magic get a huge boost as Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac return to the lineup in their final scrimmage

Chicago Bulls v Orlando Magic Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

The Orlando Magic are getting healthy just in time for the NBA restart.

With the announced return of Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz, the Magic will trot out their starting lineup for the first time in 2020 (December 28th, 2019) in their third and final scrimmage tonight against the Denver Nuggets.

Markelle Fultz

Fultz’s return was all but a certainty as personal issues kept him from practicing with his fellow teammates until July 17th. Once he did so, it was reported by Josh Robbins that he was monstrously behind in conditioning which was a considerable concern for the team’s primary initiator. This stands out as a major concern as Fultz’s ability to drive to the rim is his primary weapon in half court sets. In fact, Fultz grades out in the 96th percentile in Finishing at Rim rating and 97th in Overall Finishing Talent according to BBall Index. He also uses his endurance to defend primary creators, another skill that puts him in the 98th percentile as he does so 45 percent of the time.

Tonight, we’ll get our first glimpse of just what kind of progress he’s been able to make in just over one week’s time. If he can regain the regular season conditioning that gave him the confidence to relentlessly attack LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, the Magic may surprise some teams in the final eight games.

Jonathan Isaac

“Jonathan has been working extremely hard with our performance staff for a long time, and he has been in overdrive since we got back into our practice facility in mid-May,” Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman told The Athletic.

This comes as a welcome surprise as on July 7th, Weltman confessed the Magic were preparing to enter the restart without the 2017 sixth overall pick.

Jonathan Isaac found himself in the Most Improved conversation before being sidelined on January first due to a lateral injury to his left knee.

He was blossoming into one of the league’s most versatile defensive weapons and even garnered a fair bit of attention as a candidate to finish on an All-Defensive team. Isaac ranked in the 98th percentile in deflections and blocks per 75 possessions as well as 95th in steals according to BBall Index. He defended those deemed Tall Creators on 13.3 percent of possessions (first in NBA) and defended All-Stars on 16.5 percent of possessions (90th percentile).

If Isaac can return to the form that saw him compile these numbers, he’ll quickly bolster the Magic’s frontcourt and raise their defensive ceiling exponentially.

Offensively, his playmaking and perimeter shooting need considerable improvement, but he graded in the 83rd percentile in spot-up shooting and 88th in roll man impact.

The Magic will need Isaac’s length as the face off with the monstrous lineup the Nuggets have been employing of Nikola Jokic, Mason Plumlee, Jerami Grant, Bol Bol and Paul Millsap due to the extended absences of Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton and Michael Porter Jr. Several of these players previously tested positive for COVID-19 and are being held out for precautionary reasons.

Learn more about the Nuggets from our friends at the Denver Stiffs here.

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Cheers and enjoy the game!