It’s been through just two preseason games for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the 2023-24 season has not officially started yet in the NBA. Still, even with those things aside, Cavaliers fans are already pumped about what could be in store for youngster Emoni Bates.
Bates, who was the 49th pick in the 2023 NBA Draft by Cleveland, has been one of the bright spots for the Wine and Gold in preseason thus far. The Cavaliers have lost both of their preseason games, on Tuesday at the Atlanta Hawks and on Thursday versus the Orlando Magic, and Cleveland has to iron some stuff out, both offensively and defensively.
That said, it has been good to see the Cavaliers prioritizing movement in their offense, and it’s led to them often generating quality looks for one another, and should make them less predictable than they were at times last year.
Circling back to the aforementioned Bates, though, he’s been one of Cleveland’s standout performers early on here. The rookie has flashed why many believe he has a high ceiling at the NBA level, and why he was such a highly-touted recruit not too long ago coming out of high school.
Bates has had 10 and then 12 points in the Cavaliers’ two preseason contests to this point, and over those two outings, he’s shot 45.5 percent from three-point land. That’s been a nice follow-up to his strong Las Vegas Summer League play, when he knocked in 40.0 percent of his deep attempts, and averaged 17.2 points in those six games for the Summer Cavaliers, who won the 2023 Vegas Summer League title.
Bates’ shooting has jumped out from preseason action for Cleveland, and he’s availed himself enough to be in advantageous situations regularly to make shots. The shot-making has been impressive at some key points, too, which is always going to resonate with fans.
But what might be overlooked a bit when watching Bates early here has been how he could play really well off of the Cavaliers’ key options on offense.
Bates could project as a player who can create his own offense in set offense for Cleveland in coming years, with a solid handle and his shot-making from the perimeter is something that has popped. As was hinted at earlier, there were glimpses of that in Summer League and so far in preseason action, with both instances in the fourth quarter of those games.
Something that could translate earlier from Bates, however, is him being an impactful off-ball presence.
With him at times playing off of players such as Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley, Bates could do especially well as a catch-and-shoot player. There were encouraging signs from him there in Vegas and in preseason, and there were some flashes, even with his uneven play, in college at Memphis and then Eastern Michigan.
Granted, these have been just two preseason games, and the fourth quarters of those games at that, so it’s not been competition he’d likely face consistently in the NBA regular season in meaningful, let alone high-leverage minutes.
To Bates’ credit, though, he has demonstrated some high-level shooting, and the off-ball feel he’s shown to get to money spots for himself on the floor has been very encouraging to see. And if he were to receive minutes during the 2023-24 season and/or moving forward with the Cavaliers, the movement feel without the ball he’s exhibited is something he could definitely lean more into playing off of Cleveland’s stars.
Bates has a ways to go in progressing with his body and getting functionally stronger, and more developmental time with the Cleveland Charge will only help his game, also for game action during the season. So, realistically, with him on a two-way deal going into the season, the chances for Bates could be limited, if his deal is not at some point converted to a standard contract.
But, all things considered, with Bates seemingly buying into being all about impacting “winning,” including defensively, Cleveland could have a heck of a wing scorer in due time. And the kid is not yet 20.