Why Cavaliers rookie could be a secret weapon in the final stretch of the season

Emoni Bates, Cleveland Cavaliers
Emoni Bates, Cleveland Cavaliers / David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Going into this season, it was not realistic for Emoni Bates to playing much with the Cleveland Cavaliers given the team's current wing depth. Bates, who was a second-round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft and is one of Cleveland's two-way players, has played most of his meaningful minutes with the Cleveland Charge, the Cavaliers' G League Affiliate this season.

Reinforcing the former point, Bates wasn't likely a prospect who looked primed for tons of NBA run this season with the Cavaliers. To this point in the 2023-24 campaign, Bates has appeared in 11 games with the Cavs, in which he's had eight minutes of playing time per appearance. He's had 2.3 points and one rebound per outing in those contests.

The chances have been few and far between with the Cavaliers for the rookie, but he has filled it up for the Charge. With them, he's had 19.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per contest in 17 games. He's had eight games of 20-plus points with the Charge, including two games where he went for 30-plus.

Bates has a ways to go physically and defensively before he's regularly a contributor with the Cavaliers, but his efforts in the G-League suggests a bright potential future for the young prospect.

With the injuries Cleveland has right now, J.B. Bickerstaff and company should consider giving Bates some time to prove himself with defensive guys in lineups with him. That could potentially give Darius Garland and Caris LeVert, who has had ups and downs of late, a helpful lift with Max Strus also being out recently as well.

Emoni Bates could be a secret weapon for the depleted Cavaliers

Bates hasn't played much with the Wine and Gold to this point, but given the injuries plaguing the Cavs, they might want to consider giving him some legitimate playing time in upcoming games.

Bates had his struggles in his college career and is going to take more finetuning over the rest of the season and offseason to round out his game more, but some chances on the hardwood could accelerate his growth. He could give Cleveland some juice on the perimeter in the interim in some bench minutes, and he can create some of his own offense at his best.

Bates had a turbulent collegiate career and underachieved at Memphis before transferring to Eastern Michigan. In his sophomore campaign at EMU, he had far better production. Unfortunately, it was hardly a memorable season from a team perspective. He also still needs to fill out his frame to compete at the highest level in the NBA.

Those things aside, with how Bates can shoot the ball, getting him some bench minutes may make Bates a unique asset for the final stretch of the season while Cleveland waits for their stars to return. The Cavaliers could use some of his perimeter scoring pop and speed.

Bates is still not likely to receive lengthy playing time; however, with Mitchell and Strus being sidelined and Cleveland's recent inconsistency, getting Bates some opportunities for catch-and-shoots in spurts could give the squad a spark. In a 12-minute stint in Sunday's lopsided loss to the Brooklyn Nets, Bates went one-of-four from three and three-of-seven from the field overall. He has understandable issues finding his spot in the Cavs' gameplan still, considering his lack of playing time.

If the Cavs were to find some minutes for meaningful Bates in upcoming games, though, maybe it could give them some more juice on this road trip. Again, one probably shouldn't expect that, but it might be something to monitor

Things are tough right now for the short-handed Wine and Gold, and while this Bates suggestion might be unrealistic, this team, which has been a resilient bunch this season, may want to try something else again, potential playoff rotation aside. The Cleveland Cavaliers are banged up, and they have been able to find extra production out of hidden contributors numerous times already this year.

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