In case you missed it, the Cleveland Cavaliers made yet another offseason signing this morning. Just two years after selecting him in the NBA Draft, Cleveland is bringing Turkish forward Cedi Osman to America, inking him to a three-year deal.
The Cavs finally made the move everyone’s been begging them to pull off. They got younger and more athletic in attempts to catch up to the Golden State Warriors, a team which has officially been put on notice now that Osman is on board.
…OK, that’s a bit of an overstatement. In fact, the NBA world seems more than a little underwhelmed by Cleveland’s addition of Osman. The young Turk isn’t known for his dynamic scoring ability, and will likely take some time to adjust. Many fans were hoping the Cavs would use their mid-level exception on a vet like Jamal Crawford instead of an inexperienced Osman.
This argument makes sense for the most part. With LeBron James‘ contract expiring next summer, Cleveland needs to do everything it can to build a roster capable of dethroning the Warriors. A player like Crawford who could contribute right away helps said cause a little more than a raw Osman.
However, taking this stance also ignores another one fans have been hammering home since the NBA Finals came to an end. Many have been noting the Cavs’ need to get younger, as their aging bench was no match for Golden State.
At age 37, Crawford wouldn’t have been able to provide the youth Cleveland needs. Osman does, though.
So, whether you’re on board with Cleveland inking its 2015 draft pick or not, you can’t ignore the fact he fills a big hole when it comes to helping this team get younger and more athletic.
Again, you could certainly argue the last thing a “win now” team needs is a project, which is exactly what Osman is. James had no interest in waiting for Andrew Wiggins to develop in 2014, and was vocal in noting rookie Kay Felder wasn’t ready to contribute in big games last season.
At the same time, while Crawford – presumably the player the Cavs would’ve signed instead of Osman – brings a wealth of experience and reliable scoring touch, he also brings poor defensive skills and a ton of mileage. It’s difficult to think this wouldn’t be exposed if Cleveland meet up with the Warriors for another Finals rematch next year. The Cavs’ bench was mutilated by Golden State during this past Finals due it being littered with past-their-prime vets struggling to keep up, something Crawford would only add to.
On top of this, those anticipating Cleveland bringing in younger talent this offseason were quickly reminded of how difficult such a task was just minutes into free agency. The team didn’t have the assets needed to swing a deal for Paul George or Jimmy Butler. There was barely any cap space to help the Cavs sign young free agents of note.
Osman can’t be compared to George or Butler, but he does bring with him a notable ability to defend wing players. While he currently leaves a little to be desired offensively (he averaged 7.1 PPG last season), it was clear last year the Cavs simply didn’t have anyone on their bench who could effectively guard opponents’ more athletic players.
If Osman can prove to be a reliable defender next year, it will greatly benefit Cleveland.
Sure, he’ll take some time to develop. While Euroleague basketball is a step up in competition compared to the NCAA, it’s still a few steps behind the NBA. At the same time, with the Eastern Conference now basically a two-team race to the Finals, it’s safe to say Cleveland will have some time to get Osman up to speed.
It should be noted that, despite signing with Cleveland, Osman may actually kick off the 2017 season on another roster. He’s now officially a trade chip the Cavs can use, one far more appealing than aging players like Channing Frye or Richard Jefferson. There’s already been talk about tossing him in as a piece in potential deals for Carmelo Anthony.
If the Cavs don’t move him, though, people shouldn’t be this quick to bash the team for choosing him over an older veteran. In Osman, Cleveland finally has some young legs on its bench, and won’t need to rely on them right away. It may not be the sexy acquisition Cavs fans were hoping for, but there are some benefits to bringing Osman in, and they shouldn’t be ignored.
Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook