When’s the draft lottery again?
The Cavs dropped three of their four games this week with crunch-time losses to the Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Hornets, and the Washington Wizards. Any hope of making the play-in is unofficially gone.
Here’s what we learned this week.
There’s more and more evidence that Darius Garland and Collin Sexton fit together offensively.
The Cavs lost three of their four games, but it’s hard to pin any of that on the young backcourt.
Garland is in the midst of his best stretch in the league. In his last ten games, the second-year guard is averaging 23.9 points and 7.1 assists on 45.1% shooting from deep on 7.1 attempts per game (we like that).
Sexton on the other hand continues to be a consistent and efficient scorer. He’s scored 20 or more points in 40 of the 50 games he’s played this season while posting 58.1 true shooting percentage.
The play-in run has gone poorly for the team, but the young guards have stepped up when it mattered most and are playing some of their best basketball. In their last four games together, the duo has posted a solid 6.3 net rating when on the floor together. They’ve also combined for 51.3 points and 10.8 assists per game on 53.7% shooting as a duo during that stretch. There’s not much more you can ask for offensively from this young of a backcourt.
Both players have been the best version of themselves recently while sharing the floor together which is incredibly encouraging from a team building standpoint. There are obvious concerns long-term given their defensive limitations. Those concerns, while legitimate, aren’t enough to keep from buying in long term. We’ve seen enough this year, and especially in the last month, to conclude that these two compliment each other well offensively. That’s rare to find with two ball dominant guards. Especially two who are under 23 years old.
I’m not sure what the future holds for this team, but I’m confident in saying that this backcourt will be paired together for the foreseeable future. The Cavs
could have something special here.
Jarrett Allen looks like his old self again.
Allen has returned to form after having a rough couple weeks since coming back from his concussion. He finished the week with two big games which included an incredible 27-point outing in Washington.
The Cavs’ future looks more certain when Allen is playing like he did at the end of the week. The undersized backcourt isn’t going anywhere soon which means the Cavs will need a versatile rim protector to cover up for the inevitable defensive issues. Allen has shown that he can do that, while being a solid offensive outlet who works well with the guards in the pick-and-roll.
Cedi Osman playing well could solve so many issues.
Osman has been abysmal this season and that’s probably saying it nicely. He has struggled to find his shot all year as he’s shooting just 30.5% from deep on 5.3 attempts per game while shooting just 36.6% from the field. He’s let his lack of shooting bleed into the rest of his game as he’s looked lifeless at times on the offensive and defensive ends to the point where he rightly fell completely out of the rotation. Simply put, he’s been the absolute worst version of himself.
Osman reminded us on Sunday night what the best version of himself looks like. He got the start in place of Sexton, who missed the game with injury, and did not disappoint. He finished with 19 points, on 3-6 shooting from deep, 5 assists and a steal. Cedi played with great energy on both ends and was able to get easy looks in transition while providing reliable outside shooting and playmaking. That is about all you can ask for from Osman.
One of the reasons the Cavs’ season has gone as poorly as it has is the offensive production from the wing. The team came into the year with depth on the wing, but that slowly disappeared as Dante Exum was injured and sent away, Kevin Porter Jr. was traded before playing a game, and Dylan Windler had a short and disappointing rookie season. Isaac Okoro has been the Cavs most consistent offensive wing this season which is saying something considering how rough he’s been on that end despite his incredible upside.
The bench has been another weak spot this season. The Cavs lack of shooting and ball handling is exaggerated with this unit as the play of the young guards hasn’t been able to bail them out. While not having the worst players, the pieces have largely not fit as there are many overlapping skillsets and not enough playmakers or shooting available to make it work.
It’s unfair to pin both of these issues squarely on Osman. However, him playing like he did on Sunday night could help solve both problems which would go a surprisingly long way in taking the Cavs from a perennial lottery team to a playoff contender.
The days of hoping Cedi could turn into a long-term starter are long gone. But, he showed last season that he could be a valuable backup as he brought high energy, good off-ball movement, and great shooting as he shot 38.3% shooting from distance on nearly five attempts per game. The bench and the entire outlook of this team makes a lot more sense if he can became that version of himself again next season.
The starters aren’t that far away from competing provided health and continued growth from their four young players. The bench needs to catch up in order to make the Cavs’ dreams of becoming a playoff team next season a reality. The Cavs should look to improve this unit this offseason in free agency or through trades. However, the best improvement could come with Osman just playing like his former self again.