The fourth-highest paid player had a pretty down season.
It feels like just yesterday that we saw Cedi Osman coming off the bench as a high-energy wing for the 2017-18 Cleveland Cavaliers. He could fly around the court, wreak havoc in passing lanes, and slash to the hoop for a LeBron pass. Ah, those were the days. Fast forward to now, and Cedi is on his way to being the odd man out. Osman is a fan favorite, a floppy-haired holdover from the last Cavaliers playoff team who figured to be part of the next one. That is unclear now, compounded by other players doing things better and Cedi’s own shortcomings.
To say 2020-2021 was a down year for Osman is an understatement. He shot 37.4% from the floor and 30.6% from deep, both career-lows by a fairly wide margin. Despite the poor shooting, Cedi’s usage rate was a career-high at 20.4%. That is a healthy mix of poor offensive options and injuries, and oftentimes both at the same time. That forced Osman to take more shots and have the offense go through him far too often for his, and the team’s, own good. Cedi’s 98.2 points per 100 possessions is a cliff dive from what it was last season and placed him in the 10th percentile - right around James Johnson and Chandler Hutchinson territory - per Cleaning the Glass. That will not get it done.
In fact, most of the offensive numbers for Cedi are sharp declines from previous ones. Sure, he was the starting small forward on horrendous teams so naturally, his numbers are not the best. But this is some strong regression, despite still getting more than 25 minutes per game. Perhaps coming off the bench (26 games started in 20-21 vs. all 65 in 19-20) messed up his flow? Injuries certainly impacted things and the general weirdness of the truncated season did no favors, but Cedi showed some disappointing dips in offensive capabilities.
The Cavs were in desperate need of an additional playmaker, and Cedi figured to be able to do that as a pseudo point forward. He averaged 2.9 assists per game and held a 17.4% assist percentage, both career-highs while maintaining a pedestrian turnover percentage (11.3%) per Cleaning the Glass. It isn’t anything to write home about, but off the bench, Cedi won’t annihilate the playmaking.
The biggest issue moving forward is that Cedi does not do enough things super well. His shooting is incredibly streaky, the playmaking is not substantial, and the defense does not swing things. The Cavs’ offense was a point worse with Osman on the floor vs. off and the defense allowed 1.4 more points per 100 possessions with him on the court vs. off. With Cedi heading into year five and more capable wing players on the roster, his time on the floor will be shifting.
Isaac Okoro is a net positive on defense and flashed offensive potential. Taurean Prince shot the ball considerably better than Osman (yes, he only played 12 games with the Cavs). Lamar Stevens even shot 45.6% from the floor, has more defensive chops than Cedi, and is three years younger. Osman cannot play the four, he will get hunted by opposing teams and the Cavs have plenty of bodies there already. Maybe the backup two-guard spot is an option, and it might be most viable given the black hole that exists in the backcourt after Collin Sexton and Darius Garland.
Cedi Osman has three years left on his contract, with the final year not guaranteed. He does not have an exceeding amount of value and it is entirely possible that a stable year with a more defined role improves things. The Cavs will be looking to upgrade the roster and compete for a playoff spot, and that means Cedi could be floated in trade talks. But as it stands, the Cavs need more from the fourth-highest paid player on the team.