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Cleveland Cavaliers draftee Cedi Osman is making a leap in Turkey

The Cavs’ best asset is looking like a legitimate NBA-level player overseas.

Turkey v Spain - FIBA Eurobasket 2015 Photo by Boris Streubel/Bongarts/Getty Images

Cedi Osman is the Cleveland Cavaliers’ best tangible asset. With 2nd round pick Kay Felder and D-League call-up Jordan McRae as basically the only young players on the roster who are expendable, and no real draft picks to part with, Osman is probably the best chance that the Cavs have at getting a rotation player in their near future. He’s valuable both as a trade chip and a future development piece, depending on how the Cavs want to manage their roster this year and next.

Osman was rumored to come over to the NBA this summer, but opted to stay in Turkey and play another season for Anadolu Efes. He’s hinted at coming to the NBA in 2017, which would make him more enticing as a trade piece. And through 17 games with Efes this fall, he’s given every indication that he’s ready for the NBA. Without Dario Saric, Osman was expected to be the natural fit to slide in as the starting small forward for Efes, and he’s done so quite well. After averaging 9.1 points per game on 46.6 percent shooting in 2015-2016, Osman is up to 12.8 points per game on 51.4 percent shooting this season.

In the preseason, I wondered whether Osman’s three-point shooting was sustainable. After shooting 33.6 percent from deep from 2013-2015, Osman brought his outside shooting up to 39.6 percent last year, taking 1.2 more attempts per game as well. That season seemed like it could be an outlier - after all, his shooting form hadn’t been great pre-draft, and he had somewhat reworked it on the fly. However, this season he’s smashing that preconception. Through 17 games, Osman has hit 48.7 percent from three, taking 4.5 three point attempts per game and rising to the occasion in Euroleague, hitting 53.1 percent from deep in eight games. What looked like a torrid start has normalized into legitimate improvement for him, and his form has solidified. Here’s Osman’s release in the 2015 Eurobasket competition, about a year ago:

Compare that to this year: His release has become quicker, and he gets more efficient lift out of his legs when he begins the jumper:

Osman’s development has been staggering in this area. His shooting has gone from being the biggest red flag in his game, to potentially being his biggest strength. He likely won’t be a 48 percent three-point shooter in the NBA (shooting 50 percent from three in Euroleague isn’t rare, given the defense and shorter three-point line), but there’s definite reason to believe that his improvement will translate to the next level.

Cedi has also shown improved finishing this season. He’s always been a good slasher, but he’s been able to get more chances to attack off the dribble this year. That’s allowed him to finish against contact more often, and he’s displayed the ability to finish over and around contact at a higher rate.

Here he is against Olympiacos, attacking Spurs stash prospect Nikola Milutinov. Osman gets a nice first step to beat Vassilis Spanoulis, getting into the teeth of the defense. With the 7-foot Milutinov rotating over, Osman does a nice job of connecting on a floater over Milutinov’s contest, and finishes despite getting crashed into by one of Europe’s largest players.

Defensively, Osman continues to have an optimistic outlook towards being a strong NBA defender. He’s fundamentally sound, shading well off-ball to contain penetration and using his lateral quickness to stick with opponents in isolation. He has a good physical profile, with good quickness and plenty of length, and his strength appears to be continuing to improve. Add in his quick hands, and he seems to be a player who can capably defend twos and some threes at the NBA level, and there’s been nothing this year to dissuade from that.

Efes’s defense has been fairly inconsistent this year, and Osman hasn’t always fared well battling Europe’s top swingmen. In particular he struggled with Alessandro Gentile of Olimpia Milano, who was able to beat Osman with crafty dribble moves and the threat of a strong pull-up jumper. But it’s important to note that Osman has been without any rim protection behind him - outside of a recent emergence of former Kings forward Tyler Honeycutt, Efes is one of Euroleague’s smallest teams. In the NBA, Osman won’t have to defend on an island as much as he does in Europe, and the motion in NBA offenses better fits Osman’s strengths - rotating, shadding to help, anticipating passing lanes - than does the Euroleague isolation style.

Through two months, Cedi Osman has by far been the most interesting player on a below-average Euroleague team. He’s looked the part of a good 3-and-D small forward, and his hot shooting tear has been enough to be excited about by itself. With Mike Dunleavy struggling to start this year, and Richard Jefferson another year older, small forward depth could be an issue for this team moving forward. Osman’s play has been enough to make me think he is their best option to step into that role in the future.