Cleveland Cavaliers second-year forward Cedi Osman has had an up-and-down season in his first year as a starter.
After breaking out onto the scene in his first two games of the 2018-19 season with averages of 19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game on 51.9 percent shooting from the field and 66.7 percent shooting from three-point range against the Toronto Raptors and Minnesota Timberwolves, Osman’s tendencies were well-noted on the scouting report.
He was prone to tunnel vision on drives, consistently looking off open teammates like Rodney Hood on the move and routinely forcing shots over multiple defenders at the rim. He was becoming turnover-prone, throwing inadvisable passes into tight spots like his mentor LeBron James was known to do (with mixed results). His three-point stroke was streaky and teams were conceding the space to let him shoot from distance.
Sometimes he would play with overconfidence. Other times he would be passive throughout the game, choosing to shoot catch-and-shoot treys and attack in straight line drives.
Ultimately, while Osman has had a number of solid stretches of play, his numbers have dropped down to 11.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 0.6 steals per game while shooting 40.1 percent from the field and 30.6 percent from three-point range.
For a player in his second season and his first as a starter, that’s excusable. However, Osman has the potential to be much better and everyone knows it. He has a collection of physical and mental tools — size, athleticism, intensity and basketball IQ — that not every player is blessed with and he’s long been a strong slasher, passer and defender. However, though his defense has been routinely poor this season and his decision-making has been questionable, he’s still able to get to the basket with relative ease and has a wide variety of finishes around the rim.
First and foremost, Osman should be a slasher.
Fatigue could set in for Osman if it already hasn’t, considering he’s never played more than 672 minutes in any season and has played 1,345 minutes this season.
However, there’s no reason for Osman to not be playing to his strengths rather than just trying to be a player that fits into the offense and it seems as if he now realizes that, telling reporters after Sunday night’s win that he changed his offensive approach nearly a month ago. The alterations are already paying dividends.
Per cleveland.com‘s Chris Fedor:
“I changed my playing style a little bit,” Osman admitted. “Instead of focusing on shooting I started [slashing] and going to the rim. Whenever I have a chance, the first thing I try to do is go towards the rim or try to draw a foul or make a play for my teammates.”
Over his last 15 games, starting with their December 16 matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers, Osman has averaged 13.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 0.5 steals per game while shooting 47.5 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from three-point range. While his averages have only seen small upticks, if any (including his average free-throw attempts per game), his improved efficiency is impossible to ignore. Nor is the fact that his three-point percentage remained virtually identical, meaning Osman is having far greater success inside-the-arc than he had previously.
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Part of it is do to a change in his shot-selection, as Osman not only has stopped floating around the perimeter waiting for a pass to launch a three but no longer tries to mimic James’ package of contested midrange jumpers. As he states, he instead puts his head down and barrels towards the rim. Now, he’ll usually only take midrange shots if he’s left completely open.
Considering the fluctuations in his effectiveness to this point in the season, no sample size may seem large enough to say that things are starting to click for Osman. However, a 15-game stretch that’s spanned the length of a month is significant, no matter how you slice it.
Osman still has plenty of work to do to unlock his potential but he’s taken a positive step forward since mid-December.
*All stats gathered from Basketball Reference