It was a terrible evening for the Orlando Magic on Sunday, despite the team securing an easy 132-116 win against the Sacramento Kings. It came at quite a cost, with the Magic losing Jonathan Isaac to what was earlier confirmed as an ACL tear.
This unfortunate turn of events will have a tremendous impact on not only Isaac’s career moving forward, but for the immediate and long-term future of the Magic franchise as well. Another individual who will be greatly affected by Isaac’s injury is Orlando forward Aaron Gordon. The 24-year-old has been long-rumored to be a potential trade candidate for the Magic, but the recent Isaac injury might just force the front office to reconsider their future plans for Gordon.
At 22 and just his third season in the league, Jonathan Isaac has shown tremendous potential. Prior to Sunday’s mishap, he was widely expected to be Orlando’s starting power forward for years to come. All this changed however, when it was announced that he tore his ACL.
Isaac was on a strict minutes limit on Sunday due to the fact that he was coming off a lengthy spell on the sidelines. He missed majority of the 2019-20 campaign prior to the hiatus due to a sever knee sprain, and the worst part here is that this was the same knee that buckled on Sunday on a non-contact play. Now whether or not Isaac’s return was premature is an altogether different matter which we will no longer get into today.
How The Jonathan Isaac Injury Changes A Potential Aaron Gordon Trade For The Magic
What is clear, however, is that Orlando will need to rethink their strategy moving forward in terms of their long-term plans for the four spot. They need to ask themselves whether or not they believe Isaac can be the man for the job given his recent injury problems. This is surely a question the front office have faced in light of Isaac’s extreme knee sprain earlier in the season, and it has become one of their biggest concern now that the promising youngster re-injured the same knee.
Another aspect that needs to be factored in is Isaac’s marketability. Not only is he a fun player to watch, and has the potential to be a tremendous all-around type of guy, but it has to be noted that he has become one of the most admired players in the NBA of late. To be more precise, he’s become the second most popular player in the entire league based on recent jersey sales, second only to Los Angeles Lakers superstar and NBA poster boy LeBron James.
This newfound nationwide popularity was brought about by Isaac’s decision not to take a knee during the national anthem. It’s not that he does not support the “Black Lives Matter” movement (he also opted not to wear the statement shirt), but his faith has led him to a decision to fight systemic racism through a different approach.
Jonathan Isaac was criticized by some for allegedly being divisive in a time wherein the players need to show a united front. For most folks, however, including those from the Black community, have expressed their support for Isaac for standing up for what he believes in even though it was not the popular thing to do. This resulted in a massive boost in his popularity, which has translated to a huge spike in his jersey sales.
This recent development is certainly something that Isaac has going for him, and it will likely factor in on Orlando’s decision. However, will it be enough?
As for Gordon, he is now in his sixth season with the Magic since they drafted him fourth overall in 2014. It could be argued that he has stagnated over the past couple of years, and has not really been able to reach the lofty expectations the front office had on him earlier on. This has led to the Magic exploring the possibility of cashing in on the 24-year-old. Gordon has filled in the PF role for Orlando quite admirably in the absence of Isaac. He has made it his own, and he has played a significant role for the Magic this season, leading to an invite to the Disney World bubble.
Aaron Gordon currently has two more years remaining in his current deal after this season, so the good news for the Magic is that they have the luxury of time. They have at least one year to make a decision on Gordon’s future. The front office can opt to keep Gordon on board for now and give him another shot next term. After all, they have little choice given how Isaac is expected to miss a huge chunk of the 2020-21 campaign.
Best case scenario is that Isaac makes his return towards the latter end of the new season, and makes an impact for the Magic in the 2021 Playoffs (assuming that they make the cut, of course). One the summer of 2021 kicks in, Aaron Gordon will still have one year remaining on his deal, and his expiring contract will have a ton of value should the Magic opt to deal him by then.
The most conservative option for Orlando right now, however, is to maintain the status quo.