How Emoni Bates will help the Cleveland Cavaliers

Emoni Bates, Eastern Michigan Eagles. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Emoni Bates, Eastern Michigan Eagles. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

The pick is in, and at pick No. 49 the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Eastern Michigan forward Emoni Bates in the 2023 NBA Draft.

Bates, a former top prospect, has had a perplexing path to the NBA. No scout can deny the scoring talent of Bates, but his decision-making and underwhelming athleticism caused his hype to minimize over time.

Standing at roughly 6-foot-9, he has a negative wingspan of 6-foot 7. This has been a hurdle in his defensive growth. His overall size and potential makes him a valuable selection so late into the draft.

After a tough year on the Memphis Tigers, Bates transferred to the Eastern Michigan Eagles and averaged 19.2 points, hitting 40.5 percent of his field goal attempts per game. His inefficiency from the floor will need to be addressed, but this selection suggests the Cavs believe there is something there to discover and harness.

On the Cavaliers, Bates has an opportunity to overcome the doubters by playing and training with a chip on his shoulder. The only person who can decide is Emoni himself.

What, then, will Bates bring to the Cavs?

Emoni Bates offers a low-risk, high-reward project player that could earn his way into the Cavaliers rotation. As a second-round selection, Cleveland will have a tall wing player on a team-friendly contract.

It is unlikely that Bates finds himself slotted immediately into Cleveland’s depth chart. Instead, his first year is probably in the G-League for much of it to let Bates prove himself to the coaching staff. He may even be on a two-way deal this season.

Regardless of his spot in the draft, there is no reason that Bates has to stay in the G League or ever play a single regular season game there. At the upcoming NBA Summer League, Bates might explode onto the scene and leave the Cavaliers no choice but to play him consistent minutes.

In his 2022-2023 season at EMU, Bates shot 33 percent from beyond the arc and grabbed just under six rebounds per game. His 2.3 fouls and 2.5 turnovers suggest that it is his mindset leading to poor shooting splits. Even though Bates’ recent statistics are cause for concern, choosing a player with high upside on a cheap deal could be seen as a steal years down the line. That is likely what the Cavs are expecting and why they have faith in their staff to train Bates to become the prospect he could be.

The ceiling for Bates in Cleveland will not be a multi-time All-Star that shapes the Cavaliers dynasty. In the end, the Cavaliers will hope that Bates commits to improving and finds himself a strong contributor on the second unit. If he finds his shot from deep and makes the right choices when on the court, then Bates will have a long and successful NBA career.

This type of selection might not be as explosive and attractive of a draft night as what could have been, according to reports that the Cavaliers were looking to potentially trade up into the late first round. There is no reason to loathe this outcome, though.

NBA teams are finding talent late in the draft at an increasing rate. Choosing a former top prospect with a willingness to develop him is a sign of trust in the organization’s culture. Cleveland could very well be the perfect location for Bates to start his NBA career, surrounded by devoted mentors with their eyes on competing with the best.

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The Cavaliers are not done improving their roster, and a determined Emoni Bates will be a Cavalier to remember.