The Cleveland Cavaliers traded for Kyle Korver of the Atlanta Hawks yesterday, a move that will strengthen their already excellent outside shooting and provide depth on the wing that they desperately need. The trade came as a surprise as it comes nearly a month and a half before the trade deadline, and Korver was not a player that appeared to be available to the Cavaliers. Even better, the Cavs were able to retain their most important trade assets moving forward, only giving up a 2019 first round pick and Mike Dunleavy, who had struggled to break into the rotation.
The Cavs will still be looking for ways to shore up their depth in the next month and a half, as they prepare for what should be their third consecutive deep playoff run. The team was able to find Channing Frye at last year’s deadline, a move that worked out brilliantly, and the Korver deal is another master stroke by David Griffin.
To do this, the Cavs will likely use one of their two notable trade exceptions, a $9.6 million exception and a $1.3 million trade exception created in the Anderson Varejao and Sasha Kaun trades, respectively. These will allow the Cavs to absorb players with contracts below those numbers in trades without affecting the cap. But teams won’t give up just any player for free, and the Cavs will likely need to attach something to the trade exception to make things work.
And in terms of tangible assets, the Cavs’ cupboard is rather bare. They can’t trade a future first round pick due to the Stepien Rule, and they don’t have a 2nd round pick to offer in the next four drafts. Iman Shumpert has an enticing contract, but he’s vital to the team’s rotation and it would be a shock if he was traded. They have Felder, a young player who’s looked like he has potential over the past few weeks, but he might be the team’s fourth-best guard right now. And they also have Cedi Osman, their draft-and-stash pick in Turkey. These two, their only two young players, are the most likely pieces for the team to use in a trade.
Of the two, Osman is probably the more attractive option. The Anadolu Efes player is basically the same age as Felder at 21 years old, and probably has the higher NBA ceiling of the two. With excellent athleticism, defensive potential and a solid three-point shot, Osman has everything a team would want as a potential 3-and-D player. Currently he’s having his best season at the European level, averaging 11.6 points and 3.2 rebounds while shooting 46.7 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from three for an Efes team attempting to make the Euroleague playoffs.
Osman is a future NBA player, and is likely to come over to the NBA this summer. He has starter potential, thanks to his developing outside shooting game and his phenomenal work ethic. This is enticing to the Cavs, who will need someone to fill an outside shooting and wing defending role once Dunleavy and Richard Jefferson retire. The hope would be that Osman could come from Turkey in July, step into Jefferson or Dunleavy’s roster spot, and be ready to be a part of the rotation.
However, Osman is probably better utilized in a trade by the Cavs, because his timeline does not match theirs. Osman may be a future starter-level player in the NBA, but that will not be next year. He will need time to adjust to the NBA, both on and off the court. Having the expectation that he needs to come in and play well right away on a team that is very likely to be a defending Finals participant is too much pressure to put on a player at this point in his career. The Cavs don’t want the pain of having to work Osman through adjusting to an NBA schedule, the NBA three-point line, and the size gradient change, especially because they already have Felder and will have another rookie on roster thanks to not being able to trade this year’s first rounder. Unless, of course, they are able to change what pick heads to Portland as has been reported.
Instead, the better option is to use Osman’s potential to give the team something now. Whether Osman is ready next year or not, that doesn’t change that they still need another piece for their bench this year, whether it be another bench big or a veteran backup point guard. Leaning on Osman in 2017-18 only creates one fewer asset to get you a player who can help you win a title in 2016-17. Unlike hanging on to Felder, keeping Osman does nothing to help you this year.
Osman’s going to be an attractive player for NBA teams to grab in a trade. Because he was a second round pick, whichever team brings him over will get to sign him to a cheaper deal than a first-rounder, and still get a player at about the level of a low lottery pick. His skill set and improvement this season gives confidence that he’ll adjust to the NBA well, and on another team that can afford to give him more minutes and let him work through his adjustment period, he will be more likely to reach his full potential.
Trading Osman to a team like the Trail Blazers or Brooklyn Nets would work out well for both sides: It allows the Cavs to get a rotation player who helps this year and beyond (like Ed Davis or Trevor Booker), and it would give Osman a landing spot that fits better with his timeline of development. As fun of a player as Osman is, his best utility for Cleveland is likely as a trade asset.