The defending Eastern Conference champions are turning to an overseas asset to give their bench a boost. On Tuesday, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that the Cavaliers agreed to a three-year, $8.3 million deal with Turkish forward Cedi Osman, a second-round pick from 2015.
After stashing him in Europe for two years, Cleveland will integrate the 22-year-old into its veteran-laden rotation. He played four seasons with Turkish League club Anadolu Efes as an athletic off-ball weapon.
It won’t be a cinch for Osman to acclimate to the NBA because parts of his game are still developing. But the Cavaliers hope his springiness, defense and shooting help revitalize coach Tyronn Lue’s reserve unit.
Osman’s value lies in his two-way energy. Even in his modest role for Anadolu Efes, there was a tangible electricity to the way he attacked the rim and hounded opposing players. He won’t athletically overwhelm NBA opponents, but his agility and alertness could make crucial contributions to LeBron James’ squad.
Osman was a secondary scoring threat for Efes last season, chipping in 10.2 points on 7.9 field-goal attempts per game. Most of his offense came via catch-and-shoot attempts, off-ball cuts or attacking closeouts. He didn’t create many plays off the dribble in isolation, and he won’t be asked to do that in Cleveland. Osman will feed off the Cavaliers’ stars and spread the floor.
In 70 games of Turkish BSL League and EuroLeague action in 2016-17, Osman shot 36.5 percent from the international 3-point arc. He improved his form during the past two seasons, and continued polishing could translate to respectable efficiency from NBA range. Osman’s most effective as a spot-up shooter, with a compact delivery and strong follow-through (h/t Turkish Prospects):
To get consistent minutes off Cleveland’s bench, Osman must prove he can knock down NBA triples. He won’t generate much of his own offense, so he needs to stretch the defense and give James and Kyrie Irving room to operate.
While Osman won’t be a shake-and-bake weapon on the perimeter, that doesn’t mean he can’t put the ball on the deck. He’s comfortable pump-faking and driving against overzealous closeouts. Osman’s athletic enough to get to the hoop on one- or two-dribble slashes. And though he’s not a high-volume passer, he keeps his head up most of the time and sees the whole floor when driving.
Again, the Cavs won’t lean on Osman for major offensive production, especially in the short-term. He’ll be the fourth or fifth scoring option as a spot-up shooter who sporadically attacks in the open floor. If he can post 15-20 minutes, 6-8 points and 35-37 percent from distance, it would greatly enhance Cleveland’s bench impact.
Osman’s most valuable contribution might be his defensive juice. Though he’s not an explosive stopper, he still might be an upgrade over many Cavaliers role players. Lue’s club ranked 21st in defensive rating last season (110.3), and only two of its regular rotation players were plus defenders, per NBAMath.com. The subpar defensive foot speed of wings like J.R. Smith and Richard Jefferson hindered the team’s perimeter fortification.
Cleveland will enjoy Osman’s sharp instincts and assertiveness on defense. He’s always on his toes, works hard to stay in front of drivers and doesn’t give up on plays. He moves his feet while displaying active hands for deflections and blocks. What Osman lacks in elite speed, he compensates partly with high energy and awareness.
Rafael Uehara explained how Osman’s agility, length and basketball IQ make him a solid wing defender.
He can slide laterally to keep pace with similarly sized wings in isolation defense, lacking the strength to contain penetration using his length to contest shots effectively, and he can run shooters off the three-point line a fair amount with his closeouts … Osman can also execute the scheme — proving himself attentive to his responsibilities rotating inside to bump the roll man, looking to guard two players when Efes packed the strong-side against a pick-and-roll…
Osman is clearly a committed defender who takes pride in his work on that end of the court. Watch how he fights through traffic to stick with ballhandlers and disrupt plays:
Osman’s far from a completely polished defender, though. Sometimes he doesn’t play in a fundamentally sound stance, which enables high-level slashers to get past him. I wouldn’t count on him to contain point guards for extended stretches either, because he lacks the top-gear speed. He could also stand to gain some muscle mass because he weighs 215 pounds on a 6-foot-8 frame.
The pros outweigh the cons, however, and he has a good chance to be a decent wing defender. Within a year or two, Osman could become one of the Cavaliers’ few plus defenders. That would make him an invaluable part of the rotation.
If Osman converts enough open jumpers, his defense will do the rest and lead to a key role. Cleveland’s lack of depth and youth was an issue last season, especially against top-tier teams like the Golden State Warriors. The Turkish newcomer won’t automatically change the Wine and Gold’s championship fortunes, but he could be a critical part of the solution.
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