Since Emoni Bates’ fall from grace as a former top prospect in the 2023 NBA Draft down to a late second-round selection for the Cavs, the young forward has seemingly focused his energy toward silencing the doubters.
In Las Vegas Summer League, Bates showed steady improvement through every game, eventually becoming one of the Cavaliers’ best offensive weapons as the team won the Summer League tournament for the first time in franchise history.
In training camp, head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and the rest of the Cavaliers organization praised Bates’ work ethic and improvement, leading to speculation toward a bigger role for the polarizing rookie this season. Not only has Bates’ shot selection improved, he has reportedly begun training heavily on the defensive end for the first time in his career.
Bates’ work to refine his game has shown in the preseason, as his confidence and talent has wowed onlookers. Against the Hawks, Bates scored 10 points and shot two-of-five from three-point range, including a clutch dagger in the closing moments as Bates attempted to will the Cavaliers to the win.
Unfortunately, the Hawks won with a final and-one play conversion, but Bates’ quick release and fearlessness has made for a terrific storyline in the preseason. In the second game against the Magic, Bates scored 12 points in 12 minutes, shooting a strong three-of-six from deep.
While these games are “just preseason” games, the consistent improvement and confidence Bates displays lends credence to the idea that his basketball career is only beginning. In time (maybe sooner than expected), Bates could be one of Cleveland’s go-to options at the forward spot, especially if Bates can commit on defense. Standing at 6-foot-9 and having unrelenting athleticism, Bates has all the makings of a solid defender for the Cavaliers.
In the end, Bates’ future is in his hands right now, and he may have found the perfect home to nurture his talents in Cleveland, as the depth on the roster will not force Bates to become an instant hero for the team. But, his skillset and physical build will be highly appreciated by the Cavs if he can hone his talents and maximize his value going forward.