Whether Bates can build on SL play is key to watch in Cavs preseason

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

In 2023 Las Vegas Summer League, the Cleveland Cavaliers had an undefeated run, winning all six of their contests en route to their first Summer League title. The Summer Cavaliers had their share of contributors, and played a fun brand of basketball on both ends of the floor.

Among the players who got in on the act were Cleveland’s current two-way players Isaiah Mobley, Emoni Bates and Craig Porter, and Sharife Cooper, Pete Nance and Luke Travers aided that squad. Cooper and Nance are set to be in Cavaliers training camp, and Travers looks to be an intriguing developmental still draft and stash player who could help Cleveland possibly in a couple of years.

Regarding Cleveland’s two-way players, one of Mobley or Bates could seemingly have chances to be rotational players in due time this coming season, or maybe even both. Mobley was stellar in Vegas this past go-round, and was named as the MVP of the Vegas SL title game, and he was All-NBA G League Third Team for his play last year with the Cleveland Charge.

In Bates’ case, his shooting was really impressive for the Summer Cavs in Vegas, and his shot-making potential was also on display at times, both of which had some Cavaliers fans really excited. It was Summer League, but it should be fun to see if Bates, who made NB2K24 All-Summer League Second Team, can carry that play forward in upcoming Cavaliers preseason games.

Whether Bates can build on his strong SL play is a key thing to watch in Cavs preseason.

Bates connected on 40.0 percent of his three-point shot attempts in Summer League, and had 17.2 points per game. Many Cavs fans that were tuned in had their share of praise for Cleveland’s 2023 second-round pick during that time, and understandably so.

His catch-and-shoot play and feel for finding openings off-ball both were positives that jumped out from his time in Vegas. Going forward, if he can be an impactful off-ball player, that could maybe lead to Bates’ deal being converted to a standard contract, and in turn, regular Cavaliers minutes for him, perhaps even this coming season.

Playing off that Summer League performance, one of the storylines to watch in Cavs preseason action in coming weeks will be Bates’ play then, when the chances arise for him.

In the event Bates has some looks for stretches in say, a few of those contests, what will his approach be? Will he find his opportunities off-ball in that setting? Will he potentially force things a bit too often, as he did in a turbulent collegiate career at Memphis and then Eastern Michigan, partially leading to inefficient play and/or team losses?

These are the types of questions the Cavs and their fan base could feasibly have pertaining to the rookie wing going into preseason.

Granted, it is again preseason play, so one has to take things then with a sizeable grain of salt, similarly to Summer League. However, if Bates is at least competing at a high level defensively, mixing in some sensible shot creation and displaying sound spatial awareness and hitting off-ball perimeter shots, those things could really help his case.

Now, Bates has a ways to go physically, as he needs to get functionally stronger from here, and his defense and shot selection are areas where he has to absolutely improve looking onward. Those factors had plenty to do with Bates’ fall in the 2023 NBA Draft, and his inconsistent impact at the collegiate level, along with seemingly maturity concerns.

All things considered, though, Bates, who is just 19 still, is a gifted scorer and in NBA offense, his shooting could prove to be far more efficient than it was in college. And if he is able to build off of his Summer League play, or is realistically exhibiting a number of positive flashes, if he receives the chances to in preseason, then maybe they could raise expectations for his rookie year a bit.

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We’ll have to see what transpires come preseason for Cleveland, which will consist of four games. The Cavs play on Oct. 10 at the Atlanta Hawks, at home Oct. 12 versus the Orlando Magic and then Israeli club Maccabi Ra’anana on Oct. 16, and Cleveland will conclude preseason on Oct. 20 at the Indiana Pacers.