The Cleveland Cavaliers may have only 14 wins, but there are reasons to have hope for the future. One of those reasons is forward Cedi Osman, who, aside from Kevin Love, and perhaps Collin Sexton, is the team’s most important player. After learning the ropes as a reserve behind LeBron James last season, the 23-year-old has taken on a large role this season, and his performance should put him in the discussion for Most Improved Player.
Osman’s improvement has come primarily as a result of increased playing time. Last season, he had some impressive moments, but wasn’t able to settle into a consistent role, as he averaged 11 minutes per game, but would go long stretches without being active. In 2018-2019, Osman is averaging 31.5 minutes per game, and ranks fourth on the team in shots taken. Love, Sexton, and Jordan Clarkson may have larger offensive roles, but Osman’s all-around skills are vital to how the Cavs play on both sides of the ball.
Osman’s 1-on-1 defense isn’t great, but he gives consistent effort, and fights through screens. He isn’t strong enough to guard power forwards, but he does have the athleticism to switch onto guards on the perimeter, although that is not ideal.
On offense, Osman is versatile. He can create his own shot, whether it’s a step-back three-pointer or a drive and scoop layup. In the post, he employs a solid turnaround jumper. Osman’s 13 points on 43% shooting (35% from beyond the arc) isn’t exceptional, but his real offensive value comes when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands. He moves around well in the half-court, and has a good feel for getting open.
His passing is very good for a forward (especially one in his second season), and even when he isn’t getting assists, he is contributing to the ball movement that is so important to Cleveland’s offense. 2.3 assists for a player who is not one of his team’s top three ball-handlers is solid.
Osman’s experience playing in Europe is surely helping him adjust to his new role with Cleveland. Osman is effectively the Cavs’ only playable small forward, as shooting guard David Nwaba (who stands 6’4″) is his primary backup, and two-way players Jaron Blossomgame and Deng Adel haven’t done nearly enough in their limited playing time to earn more minutes. Osman logs heavy minutes by necessity, and he’s thriving because of it. He is likely to start at SF again next season, as even if the Cavaliers net a high draft pick, both R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish can play shooting guard, and Zion Williamson has no true position.
While Osman has been impressive this season, he has a ton of competition for the Most Improved Player award. Toronto’s Pascal Siakam has improved his scoring by 8.8 points per game while shooting 55% from the field and playing excellent defense. Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell leads a surprising Nets team with 20.5 points and 6.7 assists per game.
Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox looks like a completely different player from a season ago, and his immense improvement should give Cavs fans hope for Collin Sexton’s future. Atlanta’s John Collins has been a double-double machine. And although he is a former MVP, Derrick Rose should be in consideration as well, although because of his former status as a player, the Sixth Man of the Year award is more likely.
Osman may not be the leading candidate to win Most Improved Player, but even if he doesn’t earn the hardware, his development is very encouraging for the Cavaliers. He may never become the All-Star leader of the team, but he doesn’t need to. He is on track to become a very solid forward, and that’s all the Cavs need from him. Whether he’s starting or backing up a young star, Cedi Osman will have a place on this team for a long time.