Extended road trips are tough on young teams. Especially if those trips include back-to-back games against arguably the two best teams in the league. Here’s what we learned from this week’s action.
The third quarter hasn’t been kind to the Cavs.
Cleveland entered the second half leading in three of their four games this week before losing each of them. They were outscored in the second half a combined 264-200. This included being outscored 146-92 in the third quarter alone.
Good teams make adjustments at halftime. We’ve seen LeBron James led Cavs teams sleepwalk through the first half just to turn it on in the third and fourth quarters to run away with it easily. That’s more or less what happened against the Lakers and Clippers. With that said, there’s no reason to get run off the floor in the third quarter by the Grizzlies and Bulls.
Cedi Osman continues his good shooting, but his long-term fit is still questionable.
Osman is the best version of himself when his outside shot is falling. He is currently having one of the best shooting months of his career as he’s posted a 65.3 true shooting percentage in January. He’s connecting on 46.3% of his threes on 5.4 attempts in the 10 games this month. On the season, Osman is shooting 39.5% from deep on 4.8 attempts.
Despite being maybe the best version of himself, the Cavs have been significantly better with Osman off the floor this month. The Cavs have a -20.0 net rating in the 311 minutes Osman is on the floor and a 12.0 net rating in the 174 minutes he’s off. That’s an absurd 32 points per 100 possessions difference.
While there are a lot of factors that could point to why the Cavs are better with Osman off the floor, we have enough evidence to say that Osman isn’t currently a starting caliber wing even when he’s consistently knocking down outside shots. He isn’t strong or athletic enough to guard feature wings every night and the results show. You could argue the Cavs would be better off starting Alfonzo McKinnie just because he has the athleticism to keep up with other wings even though Osman is a better overall player.
This comes back to a key problem the Cavs’ long-term roster has. It’s full of point and shooting guards. Osman, Collin Sexton, and Kevin Porter Jr. are ideally shooting guards moving forward. Maybe something changes with Sexton or Porter, but having three players to fill out the same roll is problematic.
Osman is playing some of his best basketball of his career right now, but it’s having a negative impact given he’s playing out of position. The Cavs may need to start making some difficult decisions about their crowded backcourt this off-season.
Darius Garland looks more and more comfortable running the show.
January has easily been the rookie’s best month. Nearly all of his box score and advanced metrics for this month are above his season average including net rating, true shooting percentage, assist to turnover ratio, and points.
Garland is slowly but surely putting things together, but we’ve only seen flashes of what he can do. We haven’t seen him go on an extended run yet. This week is a perfect example of that. Garland looked good in both games at the Staple Center as he combined for 14 assists and just six turnovers. Those games highlighted how Garland can use his outside shot and shiftiness attacking the basket to set up others. However, this weekend’s games against Memphis and Chicago reminded us that he still has a ways to go as he combined for 11 assists and 12 turnovers. The consistency just isn’t there yet.
It’s hard to put a ceiling on just what Garland can become. His limitless range, ability to shoot off the dribble, shiftiness, and vision as a passer make him an ideal modern point guard. He just needs time to mature physically and mentally. While he doesn’t look like a franchise altering prospect right now, it’s hard to put a limit on just who he can become given his skill set.