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They are the Cavaliers’ two main building blocks, two guys who everyone wants to see line up next to the team’s lottery pick in June, whoever that player may be.
But things weren’t always so rosy for Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman.
In January, the Cavs were starting to wonder if they’d made a mistake in placing their future hopes in the rookie point guard and second-year swingman.
Sexton looked lost. He didn’t seem to know when to pass, when to shoot, when to slow down or when to speed up.
Osman appeared almost timid and a more than a little confused. It was as if his claim to fame would forever be that offseason picture of him smiling widely and standing next to LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant, the holy trinity of NBA forwards.
Now, though, things are different.
Yes, there are still nights when Sexton resembles a rookie. But guess what? That’s OK. He is one.
There are nights when Osman also looks like a rookie. He’s not one, but he is new to starting this season.
But anymore, coach Larry Drew likes what he sees from the pair of youngsters, who traveled very different paths to the NBA and bring very different styles to the Cavs.
They also have plenty in common. Now that they’re getting comfortable, both players are daring, willing to take the big shot, having fun and treating the court like their own personal playground.
Neither has the potential of a LeBron James or Kyrie Irving. But Sexton and Osman have a chance to be dynamic in their own right. Suddenly, they exude confidence and suddenly, the front office believes in them more than ever.
Sexton has made massive strides — since not just the start of the season, but in the previous two months. The eighth overall draft pick is currently riding high and has tied Austin Carr’s franchise record with six straight games of at least 23 points by a rookie. (Carr did it in 1971-72.)
Also, Sexton averaged 13.3 points on 41 percent shooting in January. In March, it’s been 22.7 points on 51 percent.
“I’m not surprised because I put in the work,” Sexton said after lighting up the Detroit Pistons with 27 points. “I knew it eventually was going to pay off.”
Meanwhile, Osman averaged 14.9 points in January and 16.8 in February. His numbers are actually down in March — 13.6 points on 39 percent shooting. But he’s grabbing 5.6 rebounds in the 13 games since the All-Star break (compared to 4.6 beforehand), and cut down on turnovers and improved in assists.
Basically, Osman is starting to show a more well-rounded game and that he can still contribute even when the shots aren’t falling. That’s a big difference from earlier this season.
Has any of this resulted in more wins for the Cavs (18-53)? Well, no. Not really. They still are figuring out how to beat good teams anywhere or beat anyone on the road. They are still getting used to Kevin Love being in and out of the lineup, and adjusting to playing alongside guys who may not be in Cleveland (or even the league) next season.
That’s just fine by general manager Koby Altman, his basketball staff and Drew. This is a good test for the likes of Sexton and Osman. Perhaps as soon as next season, the Cavs expect to have a more stable roster and reliable rotation.
“Success is not always necessarily measured in wins and losses,” Drew told reporters. “You have to look at your team and look at situations and circumstances. You have to look at the big picture.”
“For the organization, the big picture is the growth we see in our guys. … What I’m looking for is growth and I’m really seeing it from both guys.”
Does this mean Sexton and Osman alone can carry the Cavs into the future? It’s too early to say. Does it mean Sexton and Osman can be major contributors moving forward and give the franchise and its fans reasons to feel excited?
It sure is starting to look that way.
At this point of the year, when you’re playing for little more than preparing for the offseason, that’s really all you can ask. And that is why Sexton and Osman and regularly giving the Cavs reason to smile.