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The Cleveland Cavaliers need what Cedi Osman provides

Osman’s 29-point outing reminds us why he’s so valuable for Cleveland.

Photo by Celal Gunes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Cedi Osman is a streaky player. The highs, like his 29 points against the Los Angeles Clippers, are high, but the lows can lead to head-scratching moments. This has resulted in J.B. Bickerstaff putting a tight leash on Osman to limit his playing time when Bickerstaff feels he doesn’t have it.

This has led to sporadic minutes. A quick look at his recent game logs show that he’s been limited to under 10 minutes and has played over 20 minutes four times each during the last three weeks.

Inconsistent minutes for a sometimes inconsistent player who’s play is based off of confidence isn’t the best way to handle the situation. A player with erratic tendencies needs structure to reign in the worst impulses while providing reliable opportunities for them to flourish. The Cavs currently aren’t doing that for Osman.

Osman, even when he’s not at his best, provides exactly what this team needs. The Cavs will always lack spacing as long as Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen are on the floor. Playing two bigs can muddy half court offenses which result in the stagnation we saw at the end of the recent New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder games.

Osman is the only role player on the wing who can break them out of that slump. His natural off-ball movement, nose for the basket and shooting ability forces defenses to constantly move in ways that no one else on the wing does.

Here’s three plays that illustrate those points. First, Osman sets a screen for Ricky Rubio to open the second quarter. Seeing that the Clippers are in a 2-3 to open the frame, he sprints straight to the corner to overload one side. Rubio gets him the ball forcing Moses Brown to close out hard. Osman quickly and decisively recognizes this and finds Mobley, who’s sealed off his defender, for the easy basket.

Next, the Cavs force a turnover thanks to a Mobley deflection. Before the ball reaches Donovan Mitchell’s hands, Osman is already racing down the court. The head start allows him to finish the layup for the easy basket.

Finishing at the rim and amidst traffic is something that Osman has shown he can do with the Turkish National team, but has not translated over to the NBA until now. Osman is currently taking the highest percentage of shots at the rim in his career (35.1%) and is finishing 72.7% of them which puts him in the 84th percentile among forwards. For comparison, his highest percentage at the rim for a full season was 62.4%.

Lastly, Osman is at his best shooting on the move which isn’t a skill shared by many of his teammates. The Clippers’ defense is going through the motions at this point in the game, but the structure of the play is what’s important. Wade sets a pin down screen for Osman with Robin Lopez setting an additional screen up top. Osman catches the ball, plants and goes up in one motion to knock down the above-the-break three.

These are clips from a day Osman was at his best. But, they also illustrate things that no other Cavalier role-player can which bare out in the results.

The Cavs are 6.5 points per 100 possessions better in transition, take 4.1% more threes, have a 2.3% higher effective field goal percentage and generate 6.5 more points in the half court with Osman on compared to when he is off. All of this adds up to the offense being 6.5 points per 100 possessions better, the defense being 0.3 points better and the Cavs as a whole being 6.3 points better with him on the floor compared to when he’s off.

Osman is a chaotic player, but there are many chaotic players in the league who are valuable on a nightly basis. They just need to be in a situation that has the structure to support that kind of play. Unlike previous versions of Cleveland teams Osman has played on, this one does have the foundation to make up for his shortcomings with their All-Star back court and defense first front court.

The Cavs have an abundance of guys with overlapping, defense first skills. That’s fine, but too many players on the court who provide the same thing yield diminishing returns. Giving reliable minutes to someone like Osman who provides off-ball movement and perimeter play finishing is desperately needed with Kevin Love not currently being able to provide that.

It’s time for the coaching staff to put the faith in Osman the numbers and on-court product show he deserves.

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