There’s still little clarity on when the 2020/21 NBA season will begin and end, but Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman confirmed today that his team expects Jonathan Isaac‘s recovery from a torn ACL to sideline the young forward for the full year.
“We will not have Jonathan Isaac next season,” Weltman said, per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link).
Isaac was on his way to a breakout year in 2019/20, having averaged career highs in PPG (11.9), RPG (6.8), BPG (2.3), SPG (1.6), and a handful of other categories in the 34 games (28.8 MPG) he played. However, a severe left knee sprain and bone bruise sidelined him on January 1, and his comeback effort during the restart was abruptly halted in early August by a torn left ACL.
It’s not uncommon for NBA players’ ACL recoveries to span more than a full calendar year. For instance, Kristaps Porzingis suffered a torn ACL in February of 2018 and missed the entire ’18/19 season. Klay Thompson tore his ACL in the 2019 NBA Finals last June and won’t return for the Warriors until the start of the 2020/21 season.
Isaac projects to be one of the Magic’s cornerstone players going forward, so it makes sense for the team to set a conservative recovery timeline for him. Perhaps if the start of the 2020/21 season gets pushed back by several months, Orlando would reconsider Isaac’s return date, but for now it sounds like we shouldn’t expect to see him back on the court before ’21/22.
That timeline means Isaac may be on a new contract by the time he plays his next game. He’ll be eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2020 offseason and will be a restricted free agent in 2021 if he and the Magic don’t reach a new deal before then.
Isaac’s knee injury may negatively impact his leverage when he negotiates his next deal, but if his recovery is progressing well, the Magic will likely still be confident about investing in him long term — Porzingis and Thompson, for instance, both signed five-year, maximum-salary contracts before they’d returned from their respective ACL tears.