2018-2019 Off the Glass Breakout Players Series: Cedi Osman
With the 2018-2019 NBA season fast approaching, Off the Glass is making predictions on who the breakout players of each team will be. Today we look at Jerami Grant from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
LeBron James is gone in Cleveland, and his role, at small forward, not as savior to the city, is going to be filled by Cedi Osman. The 6’8 forward doesn’t have the bulk of James (265 vs-210) nor the draft pedigree (1st overall vs 31st), and he certainly isn’t an equal to the best player of this generation talent-wise. But, Osman will have an opportunity to step into the minutes vacated by James and play a significant role for a squad that still has playoff aspirations in the Eastern Conference.
Osman wasn’t featured often for Cleveland in his first year after coming overseas from the Euroleague, where he had steadily established himself as a solid contributor. He only played 11 minutes a night even though he was extremely efficient for a rookie, posting 48% from the field and 36% from deep. That efficiency made him a per-36 minutes stud, with averages of nearly 13 points and over six rebounds a game. Defensively, Osman struggled by advanced metrics, as nearly all rookies do, but he showed the same consistent effort in spite of athletic limitations that has helped fellow Cavalier Kyle Korver sustain such a long NBA career.
Even in last year's playoffs as Cleveland’s perimeter players, especially JR Smith and Rodney Hood, struggled, the Cavs refused to give Osman extended playing time. He languished on the bench during the Cavaliers run to the Finals and eventual defeat to the Warriors, averaging just over four minutes in the games he did play while also sitting out entirely for eight playoff contests. Considering how awful Cleveland's perimeter rotation was outside of James for much of the postseason, it felt like coach Ty Lue was squandering his last run with the King by refusing to give Osman a chance. With James gone, there’s no longer any reason Lue shouldn’t give the Turkish swingman an abundance of minutes.
Osman can slot with Love and Sexton as the Cavs building blocks moving forward amidst a roster of overpaid holdovers from the days of LeBron hand-picking his teammates. With James gone, Osman has a GOAT sized impediment removed from his natural small forward position, and the King’s departure also means the impetus for Cleveland to play mediocre veterans over prospects is gone.
Playing at the small forward position on a team sorely lacking true lockdown defenders or established and reliable offensive second options to compliment Kevin Love, Osman is going to get every chance to prove himself. He’s never been a takeover scorer or a first option in his professional career, so anyone expecting Osman to replace LeBron James’ production is looking for too much. What Cedi Osman will do, however is chip in across the board as a glue guy that doesn’t demand the ball offensively but can convert from anywhere on the floor if given the opportunity. For Osman to breakout, he needs to prove he’s not just a per-36, small sample size aberration who feasted on opposing reserves, and that he can handle a much higher usage rate while maintaining his efficiency.
He won’t be an elite perimeter defender, but he will give the Cavs enough on that end that he shouldn’t be a liability.
Osman could be a legitimate contender for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award if he maintains his efficiency amidst what will surely be a massive leap in usage rate and playing time this year. If the workout he participated in with the premier small forwards in the game and the rest of his offseason work leads to Osman improving his game from last year in a larger role, Cedi might just win the award. Even more importantly, his contributions could help ameliorate some of the devastation of James leaving and propel the Cavs into the Eastern Conference playoffs.
All stats via https://www.basketball-reference.com