Evan Dammarell, Contributor
Last season was a tough pill to swallow for fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron James left the franchise again, this time for the Los Angeles Lakers, and Cleveland entered a rebuild. But, there was a silver lining to James’ second exodus from the Cavaliers. Cleveland forward Cedi Osman, who showed flashes of potential in his rookie campaign, would finally get his time to shine.
Across the board, Osman saw immediate improvements with a lion’s share of minutes at the three. His scoring improved from 3.9 points per game to 13.9. Osman also put up 4.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game as well, which are major improvements from his rookie averages of 2.0 boards and 0.7 dimes per game. Osman was also one of Cleveland’s primary initiators as well, which was huge for the team. But, not everything was perfect for the Turkish forward in his second season with the Cavaliers.
For the better part of the year, Osman statistically was one of the worst defensive players last season. At one point last year, Osman’s defensive rating was 120.2. With Osman on the court, the opponents’ offensive rating was at 125.8 and had an effective field goal percentage of 58.0. With Osman on the bench, the numbers dropped to 114.1 and 51.8 percent respectively. But, Cleveland’s personnel situation played a huge part in Osman’s downfall.
Traditionally a wing player, then Cavaliers head coach Larry Drew had Osman playing serious minutes at the power forward spot due to injuries. Throwing an undersized player into the fire like that would tank their defensive rating, especially one as young as Osman. That and the only other wings who got serious burn with the Cleveland last season included David Nwaba, Jaron Blossomgame, Alec Burks, Rodney Hood and Deng Adel. Other than Nwaba, who missed a lot of time due to injury, the aforementioned players weren’t the best either defensively and that certainly didn’t help Osman’s cause.
Couple all of this with a 19-63 record and Osman clearly wants to get past all of this and look towards next year. The 2019-20 campaign will be important for Osman, as he is eligible for a contract extension. The Turkish forward has been eligible to sign a four-year $49 million extension since July 18. However, if Cleveland doesn’t do anything, Osman will then become a restricted free agent after the season, while carrying a $5.5 million cap hold. Now, $49 million seems like a lot for a player like Osman who projects long term to be a high-energy bench player, but some moves Cleveland made this summer could help make the offer more realistic.
Under John Beilein, the Cavaliers’ latest head coach, Osman should thrive in Cleveland’s offense this upcoming season. Historically, wing players like Nik Stauskas and Ignas Brazdeikis thrived in Beilein’s system at Michigan and fans should expect the same from Osman as well. Last season was Osman’s true rookie year – where he was able to showcase that he was multifaceted offensively. Under Beilein, only expect his offensive numbers to go up.
But, Cleveland just didn’t do Osman’s offensive game a favor by hiring Beilein – they also did on the other end of the court as well. Soon after Beilein was anointed as the team’s head coach, the team announced former Memphis Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff was joining him as associate head coach. Under Bickerstaff last season, the Grizzlies were the third-best defensive team in the NBA, allowing just 106.1 points per game. Memphis’s situation was also similar to Cleveland’s in the fact they too were transitioning towards a rebuild. That makes what Bickerstaff accomplished even more impressive and fans should expect similar results with Osman and the rest of Cleveland’s roster.
But, Cavaliers fans don’t have to wait until this fall to get an idea of what Osman under Beilein and his staff will be like. At the end of August, Osman will be the featured star for the Turkish Basketball Federation in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. In a friendly exhibition against France, Osman was sensational, leading Turkey with 19 points and 9 rebounds in the win. The biggest thing that stood out was Osman’s desire to attack the rim, showcasing a part of his game he was working on this summer. This is even more impressive considering he had to go up against France’s Rudy Gobert, arguably one of the best rim protectors in the NBA.
While it may be tough to see the direct change in defense to Osman’s game during FIBA play, there are some signs out there. When watching Osman in action, it is clear that the Turkish forward has put in work this summer on his body. With a more thick, muscular frame, it should help Osman defend at both FIBA and NBA levels. That, and if he does end up having to play power forward again next season at least he’ll have the girth to handle it.
This upcoming season is a big one for Osman and clearly both he and the Cavaliers are aware of that. On Cleveland’s side of things, they have hired personnel that should play a huge part in the growth, development and success of Osman. With Osman, he has been physically toning his body and will be able to properly showcase what he can bring to the table through the FIBA World Cup in late August.