Emoni Bates recently signed a two-way deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was one of three two-way signings for Cleveland, alongside undrafted free agent guard Craig Porter Jr. and 2022 second-round pick Isaiah Mobley, a 6’8″ big man.
With the 49th pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, taking a swing on Bates was a good idea, as he has a really high upside but a really low floor. There isn’t a lot of risk in taking Bates at 49, but if he can reach his full potential then Cleveland will be one of the scariest teams in the league with Bates in the starting 5 instead of someone like Caris LeVert, Max Strus, or Isaac Okoro.
The Cavaliers have already played their first Las Vegas Summer League game against the Brooklyn Nets. For Cleveland, Sharife Cooper was their best player of the night, as he put in 27 points, three rebounds, and one assist. He also had two blocks and a steal.
Emoni Bates struggled in his Summer League debut for the Cavaliers
As for Emoni Bates in the game, he was not very effective. He had 16 points, six rebounds, and two steals. However, he didn’t have a single assist, and he shot a rather dismal 5-for-18 from the field, as well as 4-for-13 from beyond the arc.
This just shows Bates’ game. He’s a very prominent isolation scorer, but if he wants to be a full-time player for the Cavs, he’s going to need to trust his teammates. The Cavaliers play a great brand of team basketball, and as of now, Bates doesn’t fit the mold.
As was mentioned earlier, he did receive a two-way contract. He became the third and final two-way player for the Cavaliers this season. Bates’ contract was announced on Friday, while Porter Jr. and Mobley reportedly had their two-way contracts in late June.
This is probably because Cleveland’s front office was weighing the pros and cons of giving Bates a two-way deal versus a standard contract. Obviously, Cleveland wants Bates to be a regular member of Cleveland’s G League team, the Cleveland Charge. That’s a sensible idea, as there, he’ll be getting a lot of run in the G League, which can help his game immensely, and can help him reach his potential.
Was giving Bates a two-way contract the right move?
With that in mind, was it a bad idea to give Bates a two-way contract over a standard contract? Chances are, even if he signed a standard contract, he’d get some run in the G League, even though he would have a normal contract instead of a two-way deal.
The Cavaliers still have two roster spots available for a player, so if he were signed to a standard deal, Cleveland still could have given out another contract, probably a veteran minimum, to a player. However, the Cavaliers may only want 14 players on the regular roster to maintain flexibility in case of a trade. Cleveland did the same thing last season, as they only had 14 players, and didn’t get 15 until Sam Merrill and Danny Green were on the roster.
If Bates plays fine in appearances this season, then Cleveland can offer him a standard contract to be a part of the regular roster at some point. On the flip side, the Cavaliers can also give Bates a second two-way contract prior to next season, if they really aren’t ready to give him a chance on the regular roster to be a part of the rotation.
Many NBA players went through the G League route and are now good NBA players. Looking at players like Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Dejounte Murray, and Khris Middleton, they all became All-Stars, so there’s no reason to say that G League players won’t ever amount to anything in the NBA. Bates also needs time to develop, which means the G League is perfect for him.
It seems Cleveland giving Bates a two-way contract was the right move. Having a bunch of playing time in the G League can be a boost for his development. That said, if he were to receive playing time eventually with the Cavs, he’d have to buy into playing a role, potentially on much lower usage.
The Summer Cavaliers play their next game against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday afternoon, and chances are, Bates will still be in the starting lineup.
Will he put up another poor shooting performance? That remains to be seen, but hopefully, he can turn around his Summer League and can be one of the best prospects in the league.