Today in Fear the Sword’s season hiatus player review series: Cedi Osman. Follow the whole series here.
Cedi Osman has close to two real NBA years under his belt. (2017-18, his official rookie reason, was more of an apprenticeship in LeBron’s last year than an introduction to the league.) It’s not enough to define exactly what the 25-year-old Osman is, but it’s a start.
In two years, Osman hasn’t benefited from playing on good teams. (Breaking news: the Cavs are not good!) But he also hasn’t risen above those circumstances in a way that makes you think he’s got future All-Star potential. What he seems like is a useful rotation wing, which every team needs.
He’s proven to be good at skills like three-point shooting, where he shot 38.3% overall and 38.8% on catch-and-shoot threes in 2019-20, per NBA.com. Both numbers are improvements on his 2018-19 numbers. On defense, he tries and rates out better than players like Joe Harris and Josh Hart per ESPN’s DRPM metric despite not physically matching some of the wings he’s asked to defend. At the same time, Osman has been a bad shooter at the rim — 59% in 2019-20, about 3% below league average, per Cleaning the Glass — and doesn’t handle contact well when he attacks the rim. He knows how to get there, but often bangs his bumper and parks at an angle when he arrives before he falling on the ground in a heap.
Again: the Cavs are not good and that impacts Osman. When he drives the lane, it’s often clogged and he’s having to maneuver around multiple bodies to get a shot off. Osman also doesn’t draw fouls at a high rate for his position despite having a knack for completing and-one attempts. But watch him play and it’s clear that he’s a capable slasher who knows where to go, plays hard and has some creation ability. He’s a legit NBA player.
The question coming out of this year, then, is how Osman best fits going forward. Before the season started, he signed a new deal with the Cavs that could keep him around through the 2023-24 season. His skill set is an on-paper fit next to Collin Sexton, Kevin Porter Jr. and Darius Garland as a guy who can impact the game without a need to have the ball a ton. He’s also not making a ton, so it’s not as if the Cavs’ books are harmed by Osman’s presence.
But what his exact role will be isn’t as clear. Considering how lean he is, he might be best served playing minutes as shooting guard — something he did in 2017-18 when then-coach Tyronn Lue used him for defense and energy. But in the two years since, he’s played 1% and 2% of his minutes at shooting guard, per Cleaning The Glass, while starting at small forward and occasionally playing minutes as a too-small small ball four. Until the Cavs find a real starting three that moves Osman to the bench — maybe that’ll be Porter Jr.’s spot next season — it’s hard to see that changing.
It’s hard, too, to know exactly what Osman is until the Cavs are better. In theory, everything he does well only will become valuable and show up more when the team is better. But it’s impossible to know if that’s true until it happens.