One of the smart trades the Spurs made in the offseason involved essentially renting out cap space as the third team in a deal that landed Max Struss in Cleveland. In return, San Antonio received two future second-round picks, cash consideration and Cedi Osman.
Osman was discarded by the Cavs as they upgraded their roster and was a bit of an afterthought in the whole transaction. Five games into the season, the Turkish veteran has become a key bench piece for a Spurs team that finds itself with a positive record.
The curious thing with Osman and the Spurs is that San Antonio first expressed interest in the forward back when he was in Europe. Since they didn’t have the rights to him they couldn’t get him, but someone in the front office saw something they liked, even back then. News of the interest resurfaced after years, which was a little surprising since Osman had a decent but unspectacular NBA career on some mostly bad post-LeBron James Cavaliers teams. When he finally landed in San Antonio, it was fair to ask if it was a little too late for the partnership to be auspicious. The Spurs had other veterans in his position at the time and arguably an excess of forwards in general.
It’s early, but Osman seems like a great addition. Only Tre Jones has gotten more minutes off the bench. Despite having the tall task of subbing in for Victor Wembanyama and only playing under a third of his minutes with the star rookie, Osman has done a good job of helping lineups survive thanks to his red-hot shooting. The veteran combo forward is connecting on half of his threes so far despite firing them in volume and some of those long bombs have come in important moments, too. The outside shooting has been unquestionably the most important contribution Osman has made, but he’s also done a decent job in other areas, hardly being a liability on defense and making the right plays more often than not.
Osman has simply been the perfect veteran so far. He doesn’t need the ball, his strength is shooting, which the team lacks, and he seems motivated to contribute while settling into a restrictive but important role. Now, should he be the seventh man on a team that wants to make the playoffs? His time as a major piece in Cleveland’s rotation suggests the answer is probably no. The shooting percentage will taper off at some point and a Spurs’ bench that is looking like a potential weakness will likely get worse. But we’ve seen journeymen arrive in San Antonio and find their place in the world multiple times, so why can’t it happen again? As long as Cedi is hitting above the league average from beyond the arc he’ll be a great floor spacer for the more traditional units Gregg Popovich deploys when Wemby rests.
Granted, it might be wishful thinking to even entertain the idea of Osman as being a key player on a Spurs team that vastly exceeds expectations. It’s certainly too early in the year to even get a good gauge of how good the team actually is and map out the rotation going forward. Injuries and bad stretches can change everything. Doug McDermott and potentially Julian Champagnie are waiting for their opportunity to claim the bench shooter role or eat into Osman’s minutes. If the team actually overachieves or seems ahead of schedule near the trade deadline, upgrading the bench could become a priority and Osman might find his place in the rotation gone or could even be one of the pieces the front office uses to get a better player.
It’s definitely overly optimistic to think that what has gone right so far will continue to go right as the games progress, but it’s hard to blame any Spurs fan for being a little too enthusiastic. There’s time to discuss what’s not working while still enjoying the little unique stories that make this team enjoyable and there’s arguably not a better non-Wemby-related narrative going on in San Antonio than Cedi Osman, fated Spur, who finally found his way home to rain fire on the rest of the league.
Reality will likely set in soon enough, turning Osman into the average shooter he’s been for years. Some might say that’s a reason to contain your excitement but the opposite is true. Indulge in the ephemeral magic of the small sample sizes while you can and enjoy Cedi Osman, elite bench sniper and throwaway asset turned into a key contributor for a franchise that wanted him for years.