In the 2023 NBA Draft on Thursday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers were a club that was rumored to be considering trading up into the late first round.
Heading into the draft, Cleveland was not slated to have a first-round selection. Their pick there was set to head to the Indiana Pacers as part of the Caris LeVert trade near the 2022 deadline, so Cleveland’s only selection going into the night was at No. 49 overall in the second round.
There being speculation about the Cavaliers possibly acquiring a first-round pick for seemingly a wing who could help Cleveland win now wasn’t all that shocking, either.
Despite those rumors, the Cavs didn’t ultimately do so, but at their 49th selection, they did land a player with plenty of upside. At that selection, the Cavaliers took Emoni Bates from Eastern Michigan, who played his sophomore campaign with there after transferring from playing with Memphis as a freshman in 2021-22.
Bates is a player who was such a highly-touted high school prospect just a few years ago, and after reclassifying before going to Memphis, there was tons of hype surrounding him. A combination of injuries, inconsistency and not being able to establish a rhythm hampered him then, though.
Bates would rebound at Eastern Michigan in his second collegiate season, leading to him posting 19.2 points per contest, quite an increase from him posting 9.7 points per game at Memphis. In 2022-23, Bates was far from bashful with a usage uptick in opportunities as a scorer and he was healthier, but clearly, there are questions about how his game might translate to the NBA level.
Even with that being the reality, Bates does have plenty of ability and for Cleveland, he could give their bench a ton of pop, perhaps even next season eventually, which was a key takeaway from that selection.
Bates is wired to score, and he could give the Cavs bench a boost in due time in that area.
Bates is a player who is most likely going to be playing the majority of his time with the Cleveland Charge next season. Bates could reportedly be on a two-way contract, and could be joining Craig Porter Jr. and maybe Isaiah Mobley again in being Cleveland’s two-way players going into next season. Theoretically, recent Exhibit 10 signing Pete Nance (per a report from Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com) could be a two-way player, too.
Bates has been a player who again had tons of hope going into his collegiate career, but did underwhelm at Memphis. He did have a significant production increase at Eastern Michigan, to his credit still, and his shot creation and isolation scoring potential had to have played into his draft selection by Cleveland.
However, Bates has assuredly had a bumpy road to get to the NBA, and his athleticism limitations, lack of strength/thin frame, lack of defensive tools and effort questions all are areas he’ll have to improve in. Bates’ shot selection and over-dribbling throughout his time at Eastern Michigan were particularly concerning as well, even with talent limitations around him on a team that went 8-23 last season.
All of that being said, if Bates can improve physically within the Cavs’ strength program and if he can have buy-in to being a role player or energy bench piece, regarding potential Cavs playing time, he could be a high value pick.
Needless to say, the Cavaliers’ Bates selection at No. 49 is one that will take time to bear fruit. It’s difficult to say with any level of certainty that they will occur, even.
But the skill set as an on-ball scorer, microwave scoring and flashes of deep range all could lead to him being a key bench shot-maker, which would go a long way for the Cavs. The 190-pound Bates at (6-foot-9) needs time to add some functional strength and reps with the Charge, though.