December 21, 2018, 6:44 pm
Welcome back, Hoop Ballers, to our International Spotlight weekly feature where we will be deep-diving into one of the most intriguing players coming into the season – Turkish forward Cedi Osman, whose role has drastically changed compared to last season. Here’s our look at Osman from last season.
The trade that landed Cedi on the the Cavs back in 2015 looks better than it did back then. A draft-day deal had the Wolves sending their No. 31 and 36 second-round picks (Cedi Osman and Rakeem Christmas, respectively) to Cleveland for the draft rights of Minnesota-raised Tyus Jones. While it was easy to make the case for Jones being the better player at the time, the Cavs were almost capped out, heading for a championship run, and the wise move was to stash an international prospect rather than having to spend guaranteed money on a first-round pick. Osman didn’t have the name recognition of Kristaps Porzingis and Mario Hezonja, who went ahead of him early in the first round, but he had already made it known to teams that he was planning on playing in Europe for at least another couple seasons, positioning himself as an ideal draft and stash pick.
With the Cavs turning the page and moving to a new era after the departure of LeBron James, Cedi was expected to be a key piece of their rebuilding plan. From a role player last year, playing roughly 11 minutes per game, the Turkish forward started the year hot but after some 30 games in which he has been playing a team high 32.0 minutes, he has struggled to maintain his fantasy value, ranking outside of the top-200 in 9-cat leagues mainly due to his statistical flaws that we have recognized last year combined with the effects of the rollercoaster year Cleveland has had so far.
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A Magnificent Summer
Cedi dominated in Summer League, showing some much-needed leadership skills while averaging 20.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.0 blocks in a couple games. LeBron James extended an invitation for the second-year small forward to work out with him and when Osman showed up to the UCLA gym, he found James wasn’t the only one accompanying him, as fellow NBA superstars Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard were there too.
Additionally, Osman wrapped up a very successful summer of international competition, winning four straight games with the national team of Turkey while averaging 19.3 points and delivering two double-doubles against Sweden and EuroBasket gold-medal winner Slovenia.
Everything looked to click for him and just before the start of training camp it was obvious that Cedi had worked on his flaws and was ready to take the next step for a Cavs team desperate for his contributions.
Cedi as a Point-Forward
Playing overseas before and after he moved to the NBA, Osman has been well-coached while he had the opportunity to play under legendary coach Dušan Ivković, His maturity along with his strong basketball IQ has always been evident, as teams put the ball in his hands and let Osman operate as the point forward thanks to his handle and above-average passing skills. With the departure of LeBron James the Cavs didn’t hesitate to let Cedi do the same and initiate their offense. Cedi is very comfortable attacking the pick-and-roll and looking for his own shot while making plays for his teammates and the early signs were excellent as he was able to develop great on-court chemistry with Kevin Love.
“He’s making those plays and those reads, and he’s been really good all training camp, all preseason and now throughout the first two games of the regular season,” said then-Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue.
Cedi repeatedly connected with Love on a very popular play that the Cavs used to run with LeBron James. Look at how he throws the alley-oop pass to Love after Collin Sexton clears the way for him with an elbow pick far from the rim.
Cedi’s game is based on instincts and creativity which, along with his high basketball IQ, makes him more than a 3-and-D guy and he is very comfortable in this role after playing as a point guard growing up. The Cavs were glad to discover that he was the guy to have the ball in his hands because, not only can he make the right play, but he is also an excellent slasher who can finish with either hand. The Turkish forward didn’t hesitate to develop the same rapport with Larry Nance and here is a possession where he quickly takes advantage of Marvin Bagley’s slow read of the pick-and-roll.
The Keys Go to Collin Sexton
Osman had no problem starting the season strong, averaging 3.6 assists per game with an assist rate of 15.4 percent, but things changed drastically once Kevin Love went down with a toe injury and the team realized that their playoff hopes were a far-fetched dream. With the lack of reliable scorers around him, Osman had a much harder time getting the necessary room to operate which led to him not being a reliable playmaker, forcing the action and turning the ball over at a higher rate all while having to work much harder to score.
Look at how Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams close in on him in this sequence as the Turkish forward is late moving the ball and is forced to surrender the ball.
In the month of November Cedi struggled to adjust to a new coaching scheme that returned to a more traditional lineup where the ball was put in Collin Sexton’s hands. He averaged just 7.4 points and 1.2 assists per game, often finding himself unable to execute the right play and move the ball. Here is a really ugly sequence where Osman first fails to recognize George Hill being left wide open in the corner (after the Nuggets miscommunicated on a switch) and then turns the ball over by not syncing with Nance, badly turning the ball over.
Osman has good size with legit wingspan and a solid body structure that he has worked to bulk up. He has a remarkable combination of speed and athleticism which makes him really effective in the transition game, where he scores plenty of his points. He loves attacking the rim in one-on-one situations, he can exploit screens during pick-and-roll action and plays very well the passing lanes. The main reason former GM David Griffin was persistent on getting Osman to cross the Atlantic was that, overall, his game fits the mold of NBA basketball.
“Here in the NBA they play a lot of fast basketball,” said Osman in his rookie season. “Overseas it’s not like that. It’s more halfcourt plays and stuff. But here always running, fastbreak points, easy points. That’s not a problem for me. Overseas I was playing like this all the time. I’m the guy with a lot of energy and the guy who likes to run the floor all the time.”
Thankful, long-time coach Larry Drew was on the same page with the front office and didn’t move away from Osman, emphasizing instead on how he liked him as a slasher that is constantly in attack mode. It’s pretty obvious that Osman is at his best with the ball in his hands as opposed to being a stand-still shooter. The Cavs want to develop both him and rookie point guard Collin Sexton and eventually the young Turk had to surrender much of his playmaking duties after the coaching change. This is what coach Drew is talking about; as the Cavs try to find the Warriors defense unorganized, Sexton moves the ball to Osman who, doesn’t settle for the long jump shot but rather attacks the middle of the lane and finishes easily, getting past Kevin Durant.
Osman can be effective in catch and shoot situations as he possesses deep 3-point range and after reportedly working on his stroke with Kyle Korver during last season, his release looks less mechanic and is much quicker. While last year he failed to bend his knees and his release had a sudden burst at the end of it, this year he has looked very comfortable taking and making the 3-point shot with the only problem being the bad percentages (currently at just 30 percent).
Having a really good passing big around him in Kevin Love really helped him at the beginning of the season but Cedi is now attempting 4.7 triples per game as he often finds himself with the ball in his hands the Cavs needing points, opting for contested jumpers instead of driving to the basket. With 10 seconds on the clock, look at how Cedi settles for the long three as the rest of his teammates just stand around staring at him. It’s also mind boggling since he seems to have a favorable matchup against a bigger but slower Cody Zeller.
And naturally, in games where his shot is not falling, he tends to force passes into the defense instead of trying to draw fouls and get to the free throw line more often, where he is shooting a very respectable 78.8 percent this season.
The Cavs’ Most Versatile Defender
At 6’8″ and 215 pounds, Cedi has ideal size for the small forward position while he has shown the versatility to defend multiple positions. Former coach Ty Lue often tasked Osman with defending opposing point guards, demonstrating his trust in him. Regardless of the assignment, Osman is very active around the rim, hustles on every opportunity and fights through on- and off-ball screens on the perimeter. His rotations are solid and he does a great job of getting hustle deflections and loose balls consistently, causing turnovers due to his intensity level. Here is an excellent sequence where he anticipates the ball movement from the Kings and intercepts the pass from Frank Mason, earning the clear path foul.
His effort is always there so the next step is for Osman to balance his aggressive style with smart decisions. Oftentimes he commits bad fouls by jumping too early on the help, just like here where he over-helps on the switch and fails to control his body, landing on Reggie Jackson.
On top of everything, an underrated part of his game is also the strong defensive rebounding numbers as he will frequently crash the glass thanks to his size and wingspan. He is averaging 5.0 rebounds for the season and shows the ability to contribute in many more categories beyond scoring even though he plays mostly on the perimeter.
A Long, Developmental Season
After losing LeBron James and fooling themselves for a moment that they can still compete and make the playoffs, the Cavs seem to have realized that the best way to get back on track is by focusing on developing their young talent and collecting future draft picks. Cedi Osman seems to be a part of their core moving forward and the Turkish forward should use this year in order to build the confidence necessary to succeed at the top level.
For those that believe in Osman’s potential the Cavs are making the right move, but it’s still unclear whether he can evolve into a consistent 3-and-D scorer instead of just a rotation player on championship-contending teams. The rest of the year will be crucial for his growth as he manages a tough situation with many revolving pieces in Cleveland but if Kevin Love returns from his injury it’s very likely that he returns to the early-season efficiency.
Thank you for taking the time to read this week’s breakdown and please don’ t hesitate to let us know about an international prospect that you would want to learn more about in the next few weeks. Hope that all of you enjoy the holidays with plenty of basketball!
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Stats are courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com and are accurate as of December 21st.