Why Is Cedi Osman Not Running Wild?

Is Cedi Osman misused? Why is a versatile, athletic finisher being relegated to spotting up on the 3 point line?

Do you know where Macedonia is? 

(Fun fact: after recent legislation, it will be called ‘North Macedonia’ once this month ends.)

Macedonia sits on the northern border of Greece and on the eastern border of Albania. 

In this country, there is one basketball God, the only current Macedonian player in the NBA, and only the 3rd to ever reach the NBA

Cedi Osman. 

Cedi Osman is the Macedonian wonderboy who made a name for himself in the Basketball Super Ligi, Turkey's 1st tier league, by racking up 3 all-star selections and winning the championship cup—all before turning 23. As if that wasn’t enough, before that he was a FIBA U-20 MVP. Osman was born in Macedonia to a Turkish family, which allows Osman to play for the Turkish national teams. 

Cedi - pronounced "jeddy" - is an endearing, wildly likable young player who makes a name for himself with sporadic outbursts of 29, 26, or 25 points, only to return to his usual 12 points as if nothing happened. There are not many players who routinely do the opposite of their routine. Cedi is one of them.

A stable 12 points a game peppered with hot streaks of 20 points or more indicates that there is something more to Osman's game than is easily observable. Given his age and his flashes of scoring ability, Osman has caught the eye of several more-than-casual NBA fans.

As of late, Osman has been a bright spot on an otherwise pitch-black Cavaliers team. Before his ankle sprain, Osman posted the following stat lines:

26/7/5

17/2/8

29/4/4

25/2/8

Osman is a wonderful athlete with a legit NBA frame. He's got a great feel for the game and is a willing passer. Time will give him more muscle and more isolation scoring skills. Osman has above-average ability, but either he or head coach Larry Drew doesn't call upon those skills correctly.

Per Synergy Sports, Osman spends 30% of his time as a spot up shooter, a situation where he only scores 0.97 points per possession, good for the 46th percentile in the NBA.

It's confusing to see this be Osman's top play type, when further down the list sit different play types where Osman scores more points per possession than 80 or 90% of the league.

How is Osman misused? When he is used correctly, what does it look like?

Misuse

Cedi is not yet a formidable threat from the three-point line. While he shouldn't be left open, he doesn't possess the skills to surprise defenders who give him an extra foot of space. You have to admire the confidence of Osman to blatantly call for a screen and pull up for the shot. Notice the other 4 Cavs players; there is no movement. Cedi is left alone to create, which is not his strong suit.

This play is indicative of and frustrating because of Cleveland's poor offensive game plan. There is very little thought put into plays like this, and players like Osman suffer because of it.

This is a shot that every competent shooter is going to take, and people miss those shots. The problem isn't the miss, the problem is the system in which Cedi finds himself. Players on the wings jog to the corners, and Alec Burks comes off a pick set by Tristan Thompson, but there is no roll. Burks, with limited options, simply passes it to Cedi on the wing.

This is just poor. This is not the result of a failed offensive possession, this is how the Cavs started their offensive possession. It's hard to watch the most promising player on the roster have his promise compromised by poor planning and execution. The Cavs are not putting him in situations where he thrives.

Though watching the Cavs may convince you otherwise, I promise you there is no offensive strategy called "let Collin Sexton probe the defense while everyone stands around."

Look for yourself. Cedi is put into positions only the most elite shooters would thrive in, and it costs him.

When does Cedi thrive?

Synergy indicates Cedi performs best in actions that require significant off-ball movement: cutting, handoffs, and working off screens; all the basketball opposites of standing on the wing and hoping you get the ball.

Used Properly

Plays like the above are a breath of fresh air. Osman is used brilliantly: he runs through a screen after setting one himself. These two actions create enough pause in the defense for Cedi to use his athleticism and finishing ability to score at the rim. Osman is big and fast, and he can make defenders pay when he catches the ball in rhythm and heads to the hoop.

Osman has an excellent feel for the game, which is part of why LeBron loves him so much. He uses it to his advantage when it is permissible within the game plan, just like the play above. Cedi is situated on the wing as usual. When he sees he's effectively behind the defense's attention, he runs to where they aren't. It doesn't matter what defense you play, if one player has no one watching him, he's invisible. Osman realized this and took advantage, hitting an easy shot with no one around him.

Larry Drew would be wise to find more opportunities to let Osman get to the rim while in rhythm. Sitting on the perimeter waiting for a pass doesn't let a player find his groove. By letting Osman play off screens and finish in creative ways, it forces the entire offense to do more than stand and wait. Generally, if one player is moving and cutting, the others must follow.

Conclusion

Osman would, like many players, thrive in a motion-heavy system. He might even show everyone he's a much better shooter than we think now.

He's a fast, athletic, and big player who can do real damage when he's on the run. Slowing him down literally and figuratively stops his momentum. A player of Osman's size running through two and three screens like a Klay Thompson or J.J Redick would be a tough, tough guard - especially if he lives up to all the scouting reports that suggest he’s a good shooter.

Right now, he isn’t a good shooter, but not many people are when they don't get good looks.

A player this young should not have to go against an opposing defense and an offensive system that undercuts what he is best at, or perhaps even hides his best skills.

There is a chance that Cedi goes to another team, has plenty of open looks, and actually isn’t a good shooter. Knowing that is more valuable than not knowing and assuming he is. He then can then be put in situations that bolster his strengths and hide his weaknesses, as opposed to a system that convolutes both.

Regardless of whether or not those changes take place, Osman will likely be just fine. He's young and promising and plays the game with a maturity that belies his boyish face.

Here's to hoping he continues to surprises us all.

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