Emoni Bates is probably a ways from being an every game type of contributor in the regular season for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Bates, who was the 49th pick in the 2023 NBA Draft by Cleveland, is set to enter the 2023-24 campaign as one of the players on a two-way deal with the Cavaliers.
Bates did have a more productive year at Eastern Michigan this last go-around than he had the year prior as a freshman at Memphis, and he is a talented player. In the 2022-23 season, he had 19.2 points per contest at Eastern Michigan, andhis play for Cleveland in 2023 Las Vegas Summer League was encouraging.
In Vegas, Bates hit 40.0 percent of his three-point shot attempts, and had 17.2 points per contest in six games. He was one of the notable contributors for a Summer Cavaliers squad that won the Vegas Summer title, which was Cleveland’s first in Summer League, and it was good to see Bates’ buy-in then, particularly off-ball.
Circling back, though, Bates is not a player one should necessarily have lofty expectations for in the 2023-24 season. He was a rookie mid-to-late second-round pick, there’s a number of others involved, and Bates had an uneven collegiate career.
All of that said, Bates did have a good first game of preseason on Tuesday night in Cleveland’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks. In that one, Bates had 10 points on four-of-seven shooting in 14 minutes (and two-of-five from three), and hit a big three to put the Cavs back up with 11.4 seconds left. Cleveland would lose on an And-1 by Atlanta’s Trent Forrest, in which Bates fouled, and Cleveland blowing a double digit lead was disappointing, but Bates did have an impressive showing.
Even with it only preseason then, Bates’ play was something that jumped out for the Cavaliers, and as he alluded to postgame, via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, Bates is very comfortable in high-leverage spots and in the closing moments.
It’s unrealistic to expect Bates to have a significant role with the Cavaliers this coming season, with his draft position in mind, his inconsistent college play and Cleveland projecting to be one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams.
Bates is again set to be on a two-way deal as well, which limits his chances with the Cavaliers. Time will tell if Bates can eventually show enough in his opportunities with the Wine and Gold to maybe have his contract converted to a standard deal, or perhaps injuries within the Cavaliers could lead to that at some point.
For Bates to become a rotational contributor for the Cavaliers, he’s going to have to show he’s bought in with the Charge, and he’ll need to keep progressing physically and will have to take the challenge defensively. Off-ball growth for Bates is going to be crucial as well.
Those caveats aside, his scoring talent as a shot creator is there, and Bates’ shooting mechanics should lend to him being able to get looks off the perimeter. If he demonstrates continual improvement and keeps showing he’s making strides to be a winning player, which is being emphasized by J.B. Bickerstaff and company, the opportunities could be on the horizon.
But what is also good to know with the youngster is it’s clear Bates is going to be ready when his number is called, and he’s going to play with conviction, no matter the circumstances.
There’s inherently going to be some tough moments, however, this praise from Bickerstaff is something one can get behind as it pertains to Bates’ potential, via Cavs sideline reporter Serena Winters.
If Bates keeps making things happen when his chances are there with the Wine and Gold, it will only help his case.
Regardless, it’s apparent the 19-year-old, who was a former top recruit, is never going to play timid.