When projecting the key cogs for the Cleveland Cavaliers this coming season, it’s names such as Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland and Evan Mobley that pop out first. Those three players are going to be the top three options for Cleveland this coming season, and could very well be in years ahead it seems, at the very least with Garland and Mobley, long term that is.
Beyond that trio, Jarrett Allen is still a crucial player, as is Caris LeVert, the latter of whom should lead the Cleveland bench. Cleveland should have more meaningful pieces this coming season as well, too, which should come in handy, as it pertains to new faces like Max Strus, Georges Niang and Ty Jerome. Bringing back Tristan Thompson as a team-friendly bench option was a low-risk move as well, for what it’s worth.
From there, despite them not being players who will likely have significant roles regularly this coming year with the Cavaliers, Cleveland’s two-way signings of Isaiah Mobley, Emoni Bates and Craig Porter Jr. all were nice developmental moves.
Mobley and Bates could seemingly both be players that could appear in the rotation at times in the 2023-24 campaign, and all three of those guys had strong performances in 2023 Las Vegas Summer League. Cleveland won all six of their games then, and would go on to win their first Summer League title in Vegas.
One of those current two-way signings could eventually regularly be Cleveland’s X-factor as well, looking past this coming season more so, in that sense.
Bates had a quality showing in Vegas, with 17.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, and he connected on 40.0 percent of his three-point attempts. Defensively, he did make plays as a rotating defender as well, with 0.8 steals and 0.8 blocks per game in those six exhibition outings.
Bates made some significant plays for the Cavs throughout their Summer League games, and his off-ball play was something that jumped out. He has the potential to be a knockdown shooter for Cleveland, and his shot-making could give the Wine and Gold a jolt at times as well, perhaps even next season. Bates had 19.2 points per contest last season at Eastern Michigan, which was a solid follow up to his prior season at Memphis, which resulted in him having 9.7 points per game and having injury issues.
In fairness, Bates still has things to clean up before one could anticipate him regularly being involved with the Cavaliers. There are defensive concerns, he has to get gradually stronger over the coming season, and he has to demonstrate he’s willing to buy in to making winning plays to round out more as a wing for the next level.
His uneven play at both Memphis and Eastern Michigan in his two collegiate seasons led to his fall in the 2023 NBA Draft, where Cleveland selected him 49th overall in the second round. For a prospect who was once one of the most hyped high school recruits since LeBron James not too long ago, that draft selection had to be humbling for him.
Thankfully for Bates, in this situation with the Cavaliers, he should be in a good spot to further develop on and off the floor in due time within Cleveland’s organization. The Cavs have turned themselves around in recent years, and this should be a great culture for a guy like Bates to get better over time behind the scenes, and feasibly in his share of meaningful time in the G League with the Cleveland Charge.
Now, this isn’t to curb ones’ enthusiasm for this coming season, necessarily, but it might be unrealistic to expect Bates to have a bunch of rotational opportunities with the Cavs then. Perhaps he ends up having his two-way deal converted to a standard one during the season at some point, if he progresses physically and with his off-ball play, which would help his case.
Generally, though, if the 19-year-old stays the course with the Charge, behind the scenes with the Cavs, and can take advantage when his chances come with the Wine and Gold, he could definitely be Cleveland’s X-factor down the road.
The 6-foot-9 wing is loaded with potential as a shooter and shot-maker, the Cavaliers, and he as a young prospect, just have to be patient.