Next up in this series of previews for the Cleveland Cavaliers is fourth-year wing Cedi Osman. The 25-year-old swingman looked terrific during the preseason and is hoping to hold on to his starting job, despite strong competition from rookie Isaac Okoro.
Osman has been with the Cavs since the 2015 NBA Draft, debuting in 2017-2018 after coming over from Europe. He has started every game he’s played in over the last two seasons, but it’s still not entirely clear what he is moving forward. He’s under contract through the 2023-24 campaign at a modest average salary of $7.75 million, so he is a key part of this Cleveland team long-term. After averaging 13.0 points per game in 2018-2019, Osman shot the ball less in 2019-20 and averaged 11.0 points per contest. His usage rate dropped from 18.7 percent to 10.2 percent due to the emergence of Collin Sexton as a go-to scorer and the presence of Darius Garland. Not to mention the addition of Andre Drummond at the trade deadline and the fact that Kevin Love was healthy.
Osman has not proven to be an offensive centerpiece, but that’s perfectly fine. He is capable of creating his own shot and getting to the basket, and that’s because he isn’t ever the defense’s priority. He is a starting-caliber player, even if his defense isn’t anything to write home about. He’s a decent passer and rebounder, though he often concedes to his teammates in the latter department. Osman has also been the team’s de facto starting small forward over the past two seasons, but things are different this year.
Dylan Windler would have challenged Cedi Osman for the starting role as a rookie last season, but he missed the entire year due to an injury. Windler will not get the job this time around, but he’ll almost certainly earn a rotation spot as the season wears on. His shooting ability is too good for that not to happen.
The larger threat to Osman’s starting role is fifth overall pick Okoro, who impressed during the preseason–even as it was evident that he will be hurt by the compressed offseason. Okoro’s athleticism and defensive prowess are why he was drafted by the Cavs, and he was not too bad on offense during the preseason, either. He averaged 11.2 points and 2.2 assists while shooting 46 percent from beyond the arc. He had some bad misses and got into foul trouble, but the game was not moving too quickly, and even if he doesn’t start, he should be able to more than hold his own as a rookie.
It’s important to take preseason performances with a grain of salt, but Osman was fantastic. In just 22.2 minutes per game, he put up 21.0 points on 67 percent shooting from beyond the arc, and he averaged six triple attempts while doing that. There’s no way that Osman keeps up that level of play in the regular season (…right?), but he did show off an improved outside stroke last year, improving his 3-point percentage by nearly four points on the same amount of attempts. He went from 34.8 percent to 38.3 percent on 4.9 attempts per night, and if he can increase his volume while keeping that same efficiency, or perhaps even improving it, then he’ll remain the starter no matter how good Okoro looks.
Osman is not the long-term starting wing for this team. In all likelihood, this is his final season as a starter, at least in Cleveland. But just because you aren’t a starter doesn’t mean you aren’t a valuable player. Having a backup who can score like Osman can will be great, especially when (or if) the Cavs decide to move on from their small backcourt conundrum and make one of Sexton or Garland the team’s sixth man. The Cavaliers have to think about building an entire team, not just a starting five, and Osman will be a key component of that.
In 2020-2021, Cedi Osman needs to show continued development as a shooter, both from the perimeter and the free-throw line (where he’s been very inconsistent). He is able to draw fouls at a good rate; now he needs to start converting those opportunities at better than the 67 percent rate he shot last season. He also needs to improve as a defender, which will hopefully happen as the Cavs become a better defensive team at all positions. It’s hard to be a good defender when no one else around you is. Osman is a fan favorite and will be in Cleveland for the long haul. His true role is still a bit up in the air, but he should be able to excel in it, whatever it ends up being.