Emoni Bates (B+)
One of the big stories coming out of Tuesday’s game was the play of Emoni Bates, a player many Cavaliers fans are excited to see on the court this season. What we know about Bates now is what we knew coming into the NBA Draft: his shot is sublime. Bates shot instantly whenever he caught the ball, going 2-for-5 on 3-pointers. That included his pull-up 3-pointer with 10 seconds remaining to put Cleveland up by 2 points.
The question with Bates remains everything else. He scored 10 points in 13 minutes, but only had two rebounds, no assists and was a -6 for the night. If Bates is simply a tall shooter he may be able to see the court in a year or two, but to get into the court as a rookie and carve out a long career he has to learn shot discipline, improve as a defender and do all of the little stuff. Other than one good out-of-area rebound, that wasn’t present on Tuesday night. Don’t get too excited about Bates’ likelihood of seeing the court this season for anyone other than the Charge.
Sam Merrill (B+)
The process for Sam Merrill was exactly what the Cavaliers wanted. He flared out to the corner in transition, ran off of screens and shot the ball whenever he caught it to help stretch out the defense. The offense hummed with him on the court and he was a game-best +17 for the game. The only downside was that his shots didn’t go in, as he shot just 2-for-9 from the field.
Sharife Cooper (B+)
Sharife Cooper replaced Darius Garland late in the second quarter and got some run with other starters and he held his own. He then return for much of the fourth quarter to run the third unit and was his typical steady self, diming up teammates, many of whom he had chemistry with from Summer League and last year’s Cleveland Charge team. He still can’t shoot, and that has hampered his NBA dream, but his steady hand at the point had the offense humming.
Tristan Thompson (B-)
The veteran of the bench unit, Tristan Thompson operated as the “third center” behind Evan Mobley and Damian Jones but ahead of Isaiah Mobley, at least on Tuesday night. He did some good work handling the ball at the elbow but was mostly quiet on offense. Defensively he was playing in a deep drop, not able to move well in space but providing a big body inside.
Craig Porter Jr. (C+)
The Cavaliers’ undrafted rookie guard played less than six minutes on the night, the fewest of any player to see the court, but he immediately announced himself when he checked into the game. He rejected a screen, drove right to the rim and dunked in traffic for an And-1. It was his only shot attempt of the night as he was otherwise quiet, part of the Cavs’ unit than gave up a furious comeback by the Hawks in the final minutes.
Isaiah Mobley (D)
Isaiah Mobley hopes to work his way into the backup center role this season, but last night indicated he has a ways to go. He played behind both Damian Jones and Tristan Thompson, then when he came into the game he wasn’t able to get much of anything going. He had two points, two turnovers and no rebounds or assists, and on defense he was the target as the Hawks drove into the paint during their late-game comeback.
Zhaire Smith (C-)
The former first-round pick is hoping to make an NBA comeback with the Cavaliers this season, but nothing he did on Tuesday night indicates that will be a successful endeavor. He shot 0-for-2 from the field, neither shot coming close to going in, and looked lost on offense. On defense he seemed to be playing at half-speed; whether that was a lack of effort or the learning curve to processing NBA defense again, it didn’t speak well to his chances of making the roster.