Emoni Bates honing in on off-ball shooting for Cavs is a good starting point

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

It’s safe to say the Cleveland Cavaliers has a heck of a run in 2023 Las Vegas Summer League. Cleveland went 6-0 in Vegas, in which they capped off winning their first Summer League Championship in style on Monday night 99-78 over the Houston Rockets.

Throughout Summer League play, the Cavs got contributions from a number of players, from their three two-way players in Isaiah Mobley, Emoni Bates and Craig Porter Jr., to Sam Merrill, to Luke Travers, among others. All in all, it was a group effort by a team of unheralded guys, and with the Cavaliers being a squad without any first-round picks on their Summer League roster, winning in Vegas was quite the job well done.

Each of the two-way players for the Cavs did make their mark in these games, as Mobley’s two-way play popped, Porter helped the team in a plethora of ways, and Bates had his share of promising plays.

Along those lines, it’s also sensible to take a closer look at how Bates could find his role even potentially relatively early on with the Cavaliers, as it pertains to the off-ball aspect.

Bates honing in on his shooting, especially off-ball, is a good starting point for him with the Cavs.

Bates playing meaningful minutes for the Cavs next season in the early going is probably unrealistic. At least for a decent portion of his rookie year, him playing with the Cleveland Charge, the Cavaliers G League affiliate, seems likely.

Still, this isn’t to suggest that he can’t in time get minutes with the Cavaliers eventually. For that to be a regular occurrence, the possible bench lift he can provide as a shooter could maybe end up being one of his primary selling points, and we saw glimpses of that in Summer League.

In the Cavs’ impressive run in Vegas, Bates canned 18 of his 45 three-point attempts in the six games, a 40.0 percent clip, to go with averaging 17.2 points per outing. In the two games to finish out, he had 19 and 20 points, respectively. He was only two-of-six from three in the Summer League Championship Game win over Houston, but he did still go six-of-13 overall, and he hit four-of-five from deep in the Semifinals against the Brooklyn Nets.

His play in Summer League was encouraging, particularly as an off-ball shooter, and that was nice to see over that time. There were some instances where he forced things a bit; however, after a rough five-of-18 shooting performance in the opening game, he responded well, and let things come to him far more, and was making good reads off-ball and finding space.

For him to find and then establish a role for the Cavs next season and/or possible years ahead, it’s imperative for him to continue to hone in on his off-ball play and fine-tuning his catch-and-shoot prowess. That should be stressed by the Charge and the Cavs for him to keep progressing in those areas, including as a cutter.

Now, at other levels, he’s been often a primary shot creator, and the potential is there for him to pop with his abilities to get rolling hitting pull ups, pull backs and step backs.

In his situation going forward with the Cavaliers, though, with players such as Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley being the key on-ball options, it’s crucial that Bates find comfortability in getting shots within offensive flow, and/or potentially as an off-screen shooter. If he can work on that operating with players such as Sharife Cooper and Isaiah Mobley in the G League, it will go a long way toward his development.

Granted, with Bates, the talent is there for him to be a difference-making wing scorer, one just to be patient.

He was underwhelming in college at Memphis, and while his splits jumped to 19.2 points per contest at Eastern Michigan as a sophomore, he was still prone to poor shot selection and was not exactly a ball mover. He shot 33.0 percent from three, had an effective field goal shooting clip of 48.4 percent, and his effort waned; injuries didn’t help, either, nor did lack of talent around him, with Eastern Michigan in that regard.

That said, with the Cavs, if he can keep sharpening up his off-ball shooting, show a willingness to compete defensively and hopefully gradually get stronger, that will help his case to earn a standard contract. That possibility seems likely at some point next season, too, based on a recent report from Keith Smith of Spotrac, which you can view more on here.

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Also, based on what Bates dealt with in college as such a highly-touted and former top recruit, he should benefit from being out of the spotlight in this situation with the Cavaliers. He should just be able to focus on basketball, which is refreshing for him, as he emphasized before Summer League.