The Cavs also currently exist in two worlds.
Trying something new here — a Cavs notebook. Some weeks, there will be some reporting and quotes in here too. But for this week, all observations.
Cedi Osman’s current role
Cedi Osman returned to action on Thursday, playing 20 minutes and scoring 6 points on 2-4 shooting to go with a block, an assist and a rebound. In terms of effort and not forcing too much, this was one of his better games. Previously, he had been a DNP for two straight games.
Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff going away from Osman — even for a bit — really made sense. Osman has not been good by any measure this year. He went into Thursday’s game shooting 30.7% from three on almost six attempts per game. (Last year, he was at 38.3% on 4.9 attempts per game.) Defensively, he’s been inconsistent and not really playing with any consistent effort. In whatever Cleveland’s offense is, Osman often freelanced outside of it to hunt his own shot. He also developed what I’ll dub “Dion Waiters Hands” even when a teammate was right at the rim or wide open for a shot. Little about what he was doing was good.
It would seem that Bickerstaff ultimately hit a breaking point with Osman. At least based on how he played Thursday, maybe Osman received the message loud and clear. What he does when he’s playing within himself — secondary creation, some shooting, effortful defense — is valuable. When he’s not that, it’s hard to justify it. And if he’s back getting 20-ish minutes a night, it’ll be worth watching what it means for the likes of Taurean Prince, Dylan Winder, Lamar Stevens and Brodric Thomas.
The return of Kevin Love and Matthew Dellavedova
Kevin Love and Matthew Dellavedova returning won’t fix all of the Cavs’ ills. But they will help.
The former, in his fifth game of the season, scored 13 points in 20 minutes on Thursday in Cleveland’s loss to Philadelphia. With him on the floor, the ball moved better, more three-pointers went up and the team’s offense just functioned better. For the Cavs, who have the worst offense in the league this year, that’s a win. The Love that does this matters:
It’s also a win for Love. He was hurt early, missed a ton of time and then had to sit out games again when he tried to return after the All-Star break. He’s probably not the same guy he was during the first chunk of his Cavs tenure, but he’s still good and can help. Love, when he’s on the court, is still a really impactful player. He and the Cavs need each other.
“Kevin is a really good player and not only for himself, but he makes his teammates better and they’re not even used to playing with him yet,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said after the game. “The more comfortable they get with him I think the better off he’ll be and we’ll be as a group. But his versatility, his inside-out ability and his ability to share the ball makes everybody better.”
As for Dellavedova, he’s not the long-term answer as a backup guard who can supplement Darius Garland and Collin Sexton. A player more in the Dante Exum mold makes more sense if this the duo Cleveland is planning to build with long-term. But a guard like Dellavedova who moves the ball, doesn’t shot hunt and at least communicates on defense is what the Cavs need in that spot. And, honestly, good for Dellavedova in getting back on the court after having a concussion and an appendectomy derail his season.
In-between two worlds
After Thursday night’s slate of games, the Cavs are tied with the Magic for the league’s fourth-worst record. That puts them a full five games back of the Timberwolves for the league’s worst record. That actually puts them closer to the Eastern Conference’s 10th seed and the play-in tournament; Cleveland is currently 3.5 games back of Chicago for the 10th seed. The Eastern Conference, folks!
Assuming the Cavs remain in this rough area, it places them in a tricky position for lottery odds. (Not to be a buzzkill, but a real run at the play-in tournament would be shocking. A team with the league’s worst offense just isn’t a real contender unless it really ramps up with Love back and it all just breaks bizarrely.) Right now, they could pick anywhere from first to eighth with their likeliest outcome being sixth or seventh overall. Not that Cleveland should tank — the odds don’t really even favor that — but they are likely going to need luck to get a good pick. That’s life when you’re bad, but not so bad that you’re locked into being one of the league’s worst teams.
Picking sixth or seventh could also offer insight into Cleveland’s roster building. Picking first would mean “take Cade Cunningham and celebrate”. Picking in the top-five, at least as we understand the draft now, gives you a pretty clear group of players to pick from. Anything later is a little trickier and could push Cleveland in a bunch of directions. This is, of course, putting the cart before the house a bit because there’s still a lot of season left. Things could change. But it’s worth pondering.