Some of the buzz surrounding Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Emoni Bates lately might be a tad bit overreactionary. It’s only natural for fans, people involved with the team, and some who cover the team to be caught up in the hype train for the rookie, as he has had a successful preseason and could end up being quite the steal for Cleveland.
Thus far in preseason, in three games, Bates has had 12, 10 and 16-point performances, and has, perhaps most notably, connected on 45.0 percent of his three-point attempts. He’s made nine of his 20 three-point tries, with him playing almost exclusively in the fourth quarter in the first two preseason games.
His play in preseason to this point has been a nice follow-up to his play in Las Vegas Summer League, when Bates had 17.2 points per game and was one of the key contributors for a Summer Cavs squad that won their first Summer League title. Then, he shot 40.0 percent from beyond the arc.
Still, Bates has to keep at it to prove he can continue to show true buy-in with Cleveland, and after a collegiate career where he largely underachieved, he’s probably still a ways away from being a near-every game contributor with the Cavaliers. Bates is one of three players on a two-way deal with the Cavs, and one has to be realistic about his expectations as a rookie that fell to the 49th selection last draft.
All of that being said, Bates seems to be getting rave reviews of late, and he appears to be very satisfied with being for the most part, off-ball. He also spoke glowingly about how he has really never been “this open” as a hooper, and what that’s meant, via Spencer Davies of Cavs Insider.
Bates is demonstrating how he is a very talented shooter for Cleveland, and even with them having been preseason games, his shooting has been on-point and he’s taken advantage of room off-ball. His movement off the ball and feel for finding space and playing off of playmakers has led to him having his share of quality looks, too.
How he’s seemingly adjusted to playing often off-ball has been great to watch, considering how if opportunities were to arise for him with the Cavaliers, that’s likely how it would be.
Granted, it has only been in preseason and previously in Summer League, so one has to take the production and splits with a grain of salt. Having said that, if the buy-in to that continues moving forward for Bates, there’s reason to believe he could be very effective playing off of the likes of Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley projecting onward.
As the above comments from him alluded to, via Davies, on offense, Bates has typically been the primary focus of what his opponents’ defensive game plans have consisted of, and he’s not used to having this much room. So, at least in theory, he should benefit from less attention paid to him when he’s playing off of other crucial offensive threats with the Cavaliers, and he could potentially play far more efficiently than he did in college.
It’s again going to be on Bates to keep working behind the scenes to show he’s willing to be bought-in, make strides to improve on defense and try to make winning plays in his minutes, and with the Charge. He was not a player who lived up to expectations in college, and that likely resulted in his fall in the draft.
In this situation with the Cavs, though, Bates seems to be in an ideal spot, and he’s thrilled to be in Cleveland.
Before long, that “3moni” nickname might really take off, particularly if his deal is at some point converted to a standard contract.