The Cavs’ playoff run is nowhere close to ending, with two consecutive sweeps completed against the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors. However, season reviews can begin at this point, because one Cavs player didn’t have the same luck in the playoffs.
Across the pond, draft-and-stash wing Cedi Osman’s Euroleague season has come to an end, as Anadolu Efes fell to Olympiacos in their five game playoff series. With Osman’s 35 game Euroleague season complete, the primary method of watching him play has ended. Therefore, it’s an opportune time to answer everyone’s burning question: Is Osman coming to the NBA, and more importantly, is he ready?
We’ve already started to get hints of answers to that first question. Osman’s interested in coming over, and David Griffin is interested in making it happen. The likelihood that Osman has played his final game with Efes is high - he’s a free agent this summer, and both sides are pretty interested in bringing him stateside. Nothing’s confirmed yet, of course. But with Kyle Korver and Derrick Williams entering free agency this summer, and Richard Jefferson turning a spry 37 years old this summer, betting on seeing Osman in a Cavs uniform seems like a safe choice.
That answer is more straight forward than the more abstract answers to the more important questions - is he ready to contribute, and how will he do so? What role is he ready for, and what’s his ceiling? Getting Osman over to the NBA is one thing, but making an impact, especially for a title contender, is another thing entirely.
Let’s first take David Griffin’s assessment that he’s a “Tristan Thompson of the swingman mold.” What Griffin means here is that Osman’s not going to be a Sergio Rodriguez or Davis Bertans, a star-level Euroleague player that may struggle with conforming to a reduced role in a higher level league. At first glance, there’s nothing eye-popping about Osman’s statistical profile: in 18.3 minutes per game, Osman averaged 7.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 0.7 assists per game in Euroleague. He also shot 40.9 percent from the field, 34 percent from three, and 78.7 percent from the line. It’s a far cry from even former teammate Dario Saric’s stat line entering last summer.
However, film quickly shows why he isn’t posting crazy numbers. Osman is a role player, and he’s one that does all the little things that Cavs fans have come to expect from Thompson or Matthew Dellavedova over the past few years. He’s an energy guy, and his strongest attribute is his motor. This particularly comes into play defensively, where he was frequently tasked with defending through multiple actions on the perimeter.
Osman is a very solid pick-and-roll defender at the Euroleague level. He is smart about chasing over and under screens, and his athleticism and length help him defend quicker guards in this setting. He’s great at using his length to bother shots even when he’s recovering from chasing over the screen.
Osman also has great hands defensively, and his length has always made him an intriguing player who can disrupt passing lanes and create havoc on defense. He’s posted a steal rate of over two percent in every season since 2011-12, and it’s a pretty safe bet that he’ll be able to force steals at the NBA level with his length and anticipation.
The assumption is that Osman will be able to come in and right away be a serviceable NBA defender, with a peak ceiling of being an impact perimeter stopper. While the latter half is true, based on what he’s shown us, Osman’s probably not ready to be an NBA-level defender yet. Part of this is an adjustment to off-ball defense. The Euroleague is somewhat of a throwback to the 1990s NBA, in terms of defense. Players usually play one-on-one, there’s minimal advanced defensive systems like blitzing pick-and-rolls or rotations, and that could make Osman’s transition to defense at the NBA level harder. He can do simple on-ball tasks - defending two-on-two pick-and-roll, isolation defense, jumping passing lanes - but there’s little in his resume right now to project how he’ll handle advanced rotations on secondary actions, or how he’ll deal with things like drag screens and flare screens that aren’t used as much off-ball in Europe.
Osman checks a lot of the boxes you want from a three-and-d wing. He has the complete spot-up shooter package, led by his outside shot, which he was firing off at about 50 percent through the first half of the season until regressing to the mean. That slump masked a brilliant overall improvement in his shooting numbers - after hitting just 32.9 percent from three in 2013-14, Osman has progressed to shooting 38.9 percent on 450 attempts over the last two seasons. The shot doctors at Efes have done brilliant work with his release, taking it from this in 2013:
To this year’s release, which looks like the previous one at 2x speed:
He’s been most comfortable on that ultra-important spot-up corner three, and his form is good enough that it should hold up with the move to the NBA three-point line. But it’s not just the shooting that should entice the Cavs. Osman’s also a capable slasher, and is great at taking advantage of an over-active closeout defender. He’s very comfortable driving with either hand, and his length helps him finish well at the rim:
Even more impressive is his court vision out of these attacks, as he’s a very good passer moving towards the basket. This is one of my favorite plays of the season from him against Brose Bamberg:
Osman can also contribute in an area that’s vital playing with LeBron and Kevin Love. He’s a brilliant transition finisher, using his vertical athleticism to crate opportunities at the basket and his length to finish them.
For the Cavs, this is all Osman has to do, really. If he can spot up, attack when needed, and offer some transition highlights, that’s enough to keep him on the court because of his defense. But there are some questions about Osman’s offensive game translating. Primarily, consistency is an issue. He had some truly outstanding performances this year - 22 points in a week two loss to Olympiacos, 15 points and seven rebounds against Bamberg, and 19 points and 10 rebounds combined in g ames 4 and 5 of the playoff series against Olympiacos. But for every game like that, there was a clunker, like his three-point, four-foul performance against Zalgiris, or his brutal final regular season game against Real Madrid. Part of this is role-dependent, and is typical of guys who are there as much for the threat of an outside shot as the actual act.
A larger reason, though, is Osman’s struggles against stronger opponents. Osman has great length, but he’s pretty thin at this juncture. That can hurt his ability to dislodge a defender on drives, or at the rim. In particular, he can be walled off from the lane on isolation attempts, significantly limiting his on-ball creation ability.
Osman’s also an underwhelming rebounder for his size and athleticism due to this strength issue. His 9.1 rebound rate is disappointing, and he again struggles to grab rebounds against bigger opponents.
This is where Osman needs to improve most, particularly for the problems it presents on-ball. Without the ability to create for himself one-on-one, he’ll be largely dependent on others to create for him. He’s coming to the Cavs, so this isn’t the biggest worry. But it will limit his ability to be effective in certain matchups, and doesn’t address the problems that the Cavs always have with shot creation when their top players sit.
The wild card in Osman’s ability to translate will be how he adjusts to playing on a title contender. The culture shock of the NBA is a tough challenge for any European player, and it’s amplified for Cedi by the sheer spectacle that is LeBron James. He’s not coming from CSKA Moscow, or Real Madrid, either - Efes is a middle-of-the-pack Euroleague squad, who happened to sneak into the playoffs this year. That’s a rather large jump to make, even if he has a teammate who can give some insight into how playing with these Cavs works.
Having the 5-game series against Olympiacos helps assuage these concerns, slightly. The Euroleague playoffs are an intense atmosphere that actually does mimic the NBA playoffs to a degree, and the fact that Efes, and specifically Osman, had a strong showing against Olympiacos means that Osman might be more ready than I’m letting on.
Osman didn’t have the most eye-popping season, but as far as role players go, he’s very enticing. He fits the profile of a player the Cavs are always looking to add, and if he’s further along than I think he is next October, he could easily be a rotation player next year. There may be a learning curve, but his ceiling is pretty exciting for what the Cavs plan to be over the next 3-5 years. #CEDIWATCH has been a fun subplot for Cavs fans this year, and it appears that he’s actually coming over.
Now, we will see how quickly he can live up to the hype we’ve set for him.