During the majority of the 2018-2019 campaign, Cedi Osman found himself in the midst of a sophomore slump. The Cleveland Cavaliers, plagued with injuries and poor play as they’ve been all season, experimented with Osman as the pivotal piece of their lineup. His progress, while existent, didn’t provide much optimism for Cleveland going forward.
With consistency issues, Osman struggled for much of the season behind-the-arc. While Osman showed flashes of all-star potential, inconsistency prevented him from continuing his upward trajectory.
According to the NBA explanation, the Most Improved Player Award is recognized as someone who’s shown the most progress during that particular regular season. In selecting Osman as the Cavaliers Most Improved Player, it wasn’t a difficult choice. Given the criteria in selecting the award (did the player struggle early on but continue to develop, or has the player taken his game to the next level after showcasing glimpses of all-star caliber performances?), Osman fits the bill.
As mentioned before, the player would have to display significant development over the course of the regular season. Since the Cavaliers contest against the Boston Celtics on Jan. 23, Osman continues to provide the organization a justified reason to build around a roster featuring the second-year forward in the starting lineup.
Osman told Chris Fedor of cleveland.com the Boston game instilled confidence back toward his game.
“That Boston game that we played, I think everything started with that game,” Osman told Fedor. “That’s how I started to feel more confident and how I started believing in my shots. I think that was a turning point. I mean, earlier in the season, I had two good games and then play one bad and then one good and two bad. It was all like up and down so that was the biggest problem. That was something that I was really frustrated about was that consistency. I feel much more comfortable and more relaxed.”
In the 19 games following their contest against Boston, Osman found double-digit scoring in all but three. Since then, Osman has averaged 16.8 points on 48 percent from the field. In addition, Osman’s drastic improvement from three-point range has shown. For the majority of the 2018-2019 season, Osman proved one of the league’s most ineffective scorers, providing only 30.3 percent scoring from deep.
After shooting 6-7 from three-point range against the Celtics in January, he’s averaged 46.4 percent with that particular shot. As Osman improved, the Cavaliers followed suit. Since the all-star break, Cleveland is 6-2 at the Quicken Loans Arena, with wins against two Eastern Conference playoff teams: Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors and the Detroit Pistons.
While several other factors contributed to the Cavaliers recent success (return of Kevin Love, consistent scoring ability from Jordan Clarkson and development of rookie Collin Sexton), it’s difficult to ignore Osman’s impact.
Osman continues to improve his scoring, but his skills as an offensive facilitator and defensive threat further illustrate the forward’s Most Improved Player resume.
In 66 games this season, Osman has averaged 13.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. During the 61 games Osman participated in last season, he displayed a 3.9/2.0/0.7 slash line, albeit only in 11 minutes per game. With increased expectations, Osman currently averages 32 minutes per game, a massive change from last season.
While the improvement is obvious, Osman’s lack of consistent play caught his teammates attention early on. Both Osman and Sexton received the brunt of criticism across the Cavaliers locker room as the season first commenced, although it’s clear each player has responded well.
Joe Vardon of The Athletic reported on criticism Osman received during the majority of the 2018-2019 campaign.
“Osman’s season hasn’t exactly been a picnic. The Cavs handed him LeBron James’s job before training camp even started with barely a season under his belt. Teammates rolled their eyes at him, too, although it was less pronounced than their eye rolls in Sexton’s direction. And Osman is still, statistically, the worst defender among all NBA starters.”
The struggles were obvious earlier in the season, however, his improvement hasn’t gone unnoticed across the league. He was selected to the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend.
Despite what might happen during the rest of this season, Osman should win the Cavaliers most improved player award, even if it is a fictitious award without any real trophy or salary benefit.
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