Sixers Stretch Four Draft Option – Jonathan Isaac

Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports /

Conventional wisdom says that the Philadelphia 76ers need backcourt help in a very bad way. Most of the attention to this team’s draft prospects has been spent on the many elite point guard prospects in the upcoming draft. Some of those options, like Markelle Fultz, are no-brainer fits, but will require a lot of lottery luck to attain. Other options, such as D’Aaron Fox are elite talents but poor fits with Ben Simmons.

Simmons is going to initiate the offense, so Bryan Colangelo is correct that stretch four is a position of need. With that context, let’s look deeper at an intriguing option in the 2017 draft to fill that role — Jonathan Isaac.

"“Isaac is typically thought of as a relatively high-floor low-upside 3&D prospect. It is easy to fall into this trap when looking at Isaac. He has good defensive tools and production, some shooting success, and doesn’t offer too much else on the offensive end. As is often the case, draft writer Kaiser Lindeman forced me to look at Isaac in a different light. A closer evaluation of his film and statistical profile revealed that he has a unique combination of strengths, and his upside is being undersold.”"

JZ Mazlish

Jonathan Isaac – Like Nerlens, with a Jumper

Isaac flew somewhat under the radar this past college season while playing for Florida State. FSU is a team that consistently played a 10 man rotation. A combination of unselfish play, not being a part of one of the primetime NCAA programs and not being a point guard contributed to him being fairly overlooked

The most common comparison made is Brandon Ingram, but I think Jonathan is a better overall prospect. To add context to why I believe that, I submit a somewhat unusual comparison, Nerlens Noel.

Measurable comparison ( per Draft Express)

Jonathan IsaacBrandon IngramNerlens Noel
Standing Reach9’0.5″9’1.5″9’2″

When you look at these measurements and watch Isaac play, the Ingram comparisons start to make sense. Yes they are both considered very thin 3/4 hybrids with shooting touch, but Ingram was 10 pounds lighter. Why the Nerlens Noel comparison? In my view, because of the defensive side of the ball.

On Offense – the Ingram comparison

Isaac can shoot, he is listed as a small forward in most draft projections, but I think his game is closer to a modern NBA stretch four. He is not really an elite ball handler or initiator on offense, but as a catch and shoot player he can stress a defense and he can also get inside for offensive rebounds and put backs.  Below are some key metrics on a per 100 possessions basis (Stats Per Sports Reference).

Brandon Ingram2015-1644%46%41%68%55%6%3.4114.7
Jonathan Isaac2016-1751%59%35%78%61%8%2.4122.2

I’ve stripped out the counting stats for the sake of this comparison. What stands out to me is that while Ingram shot 41 percent from three, his free-throw shooting was under 70 percent.

I’m a believer that the best indicator for projecting NBA level shooting is free-throw percentage. Free throws are indicative of shooting form and repeatability. 3-point percentage tends to be misleading because of the shorter distance of the college three. Isaac shot a full 10 percent higher on free-throws.

NBA Draft: Mock Draft 4.0

Looking at offensive rating and true shooting percentage, the comparison becomes even more favorable for Isaac. In Ingram’s defense, he was asked to initiate and create more offense than Isaac was. The Sixers are looking for finishers to play within the flow of offense centered around Embiid and Simmons, and I believe Isaac is a better fit.

On Defense – The Noel comparison

Disclaimer — Nerlens Noel exclusively played the center position at Kentucky, so this is not apples to apples. For comparison sake, I am projecting what Nerlens could eventually project as a defensive four man. The Sixers gave up on the Noel/Embiid pairing due to Noel’s inability to shoot beyond 5 feet. With his offensive limitations, he simply needs to be a center in the NBA.

Defensively, however, Nerlens was quite good at defending in space, using his length and quick hands to generate deflections and steals. In this regard I believe Isaac compares quite well (Stats Per Sports Reference).

Nerlens Noel2012-
Jonathan Isaac2016-

Again, on a per 100 possession basis, Isaac compares very closely in steals, fouls and defensive rebound percentage. Defensive rating is skewed somewhat by Noel’s insane rim protection and block stats but the other stats are comparable.

But what about the Homie?

Dario Saric is fun and lovable player, I love Dario as much as the next guy, but he’s simply never coming over…

But seriously, I think that defensively and offensively, Dario is not an ideal compliment to either Embiid or Simmons. He will thrive in a backup role and play significant minutes for sure, but I view him more as a linchpin of the bench than I do as a core starter. My reasons for this directly relate to why I think Isaac is a better long term fit. Saric simply cannot guard on the perimeter if switched out onto a guard. I believe Isaac’s length and athleticism allow him to defensively be switchable. I admit, a big part of me still wants to see the Noel/Embiid defensive pairing, and Isaac gives us the best approximation of that in this draft.

Next: 5 Free Agents the Sixers Should Avoid


Barring winning the lottery and getting Markelle Fultz in this draft, I would prefer to add someone with the range, length and unselfishness to the team rather than hope that one of the other guards can learn to play defense or compliment Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The other guard prospects have serious question marks. If the Lakers pick conveys, then this will not be an either or proposition.