If Emoni Bates stays the course for Cavs, he could have his chance as rookie

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

Emoni Bates was a draft selection nearly a couple of months ago that was about ceiling, and what a prospect could become eventually. The Cleveland Cavaliers went with him 49th overall, and he would be signed via one of the Cavaliers’ two-way contracts.

Bates had an underwhelming collegiate career, and that led to his rapid fall down in the draft. He was one of the most highly-touted recruits in the country before his time in college tipped off, before things just didn’t pan out for him at Memphis.

Injuries in his season there didn’t help his cause, either, and as a result, he had averages of 9.7 points and 3.3 rebounds in only 23.4 minutes per contest. His true shooting rate was 49.5 percent, which was hardly anything to write home about.

Bates would have better production and had his moments in his second college season after transferring to Eastern Michigan, fortunately. In 2022-23 with them, he had 19.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, but shot a near identical rate from three, at 33.0 percent. He was getting to the free throw line far more, on the plus side, however, the competition was a significant step down in MAC play, and his Eagles went only 8-23.

There were still plenty of questions about Bates leading into the 2023 NBA Draft. He largely struggled in college, and did not live to up to the high expectations.

Bates’ talent is there as a scorer and shot creator for him to be an impact contributor for years to come, though, and in this situation with Cleveland, there won’t be tons of pressure.

That being said, for him to turn out to be a success with the Cavaliers, Bates will have to show he’s bought in in all aspects. If he is, and stays the course, he could have his looks in Year 1, even, which could be something to really build on.

If Bates stays the course, his chance could come for the Cavs in Year 1.

Bates will be on a two-way deal next season, as was mentioned. While it seems he could end up receiving a multi-year deal from Cleveland during the 2023-24 campaign based on a prior report from Keith Smith of Yahoo! Sports, the expectations shouldn’t be high for him as a rookie.

There’s going to be a number of others involved, the Cavaliers are on the verge of contention, and could make a deep postseason run, and Bates has to demonstrate growth in his play style and mindset. One would imagine potentially in Cavaliers preseason and at least realistically in G League play with the Cleveland Charge, he’ll have plenty of opportunities.

Bates did have an encouraging Las Vegas Summer League, in which he had 17.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per contest in his six games for Cleveland. He shot 40.0 percent from three-point range, and after an uneven opening outing, rebounded especially well in the rest of the exhibition games. Bates seemed to be having success with his off-ball play, and despite having ups and downs defensively, did show intensity there and made some dynamic plays for the Cavs in their Summer League title run.

Now, for the rookie going forward, it’s imperative that he gets stronger, and gradually fills out more in that aspect. Defensively at the NBA level, it’s difficult to project right now what types of players he could regularly guard, and even with the Summer League tape in mind, his defensive play on and off-ball in college left a ton to be desired.

Regardless of his very thin build for a 6-foot-9 player, if the buy-in is there from Bates on defense in G League play and hopefully in his possible minutes with the Cavaliers, even with a rare negative wingspan, he could help as a team defender/rotator with max effort. With the Cavs’ infrastructure around guys such as Evan Mobley and their team mindset, that should only aid Bates’ development on that end, but to reiterate, Bates has to commit there and show the willingness to guard and get stronger behind the scenes.

For Bates, it’s going to take time for him to have opportunities with the Cavs in meaningful minutes, one would assume, and he has to demonstrate he’s willing to buy in to off-ball play, taking the challenge in the weight room and offense. If those things are exhibited from him, though, he could have his looks in Year 1.

It was years ago, but Bates was the first high school sophomore to be named Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year, as was then pointed out by ESPN’s Jeff Borzello.

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He could be a wing bucket-getter for the Cavs, or at least microwave scorer. It’s just going to take time for him to develop mentally and physically before it gets to that point.