The Cleveland Cavaliers completed the draft with one selection, choosing to stand pat and work with the No. 49 pick. They had to address their need for a backup big, extra shooting help and a consistent option at the small forward as the offseason rolled around. Though they couldn’t address every need with a single pick in the second round, the Cavs still had plenty of solid options fall to them in the draft.
Who did the Cavaliers select with their lone pick in Thursday’s draft? How will they fit with Cleveland’s up-and-coming roster?
Emoni Bates – Second Round, Pick 49
You asked. They delivered.
Eastern Michigan forward Emoni Bates is a Cleveland Cavalier.
Bates, a former five-star recruit from Ypsilanti, Mich., initially committed to the Michigan State Spartans in 2020, but would de-commit from MSU and commit to Memphis in 2021. The 6-foot-9-inch forward would earn averages of 9.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game during his first and only season with the Tigers. He added on percentages of 38.6% from the field and 32.9% from the 3-point line.
Bates would transfer to Eastern Michigan in 2022. He would be pulled over and arrested on felony gun charges in September 2022. He would be sentenced to 18 months of probation in December after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge. The conviction will be expunged from Bates’ record if he successfully completes his probation, according to ESPN. He would be reinstated at Eastern Michigan in October.
Bates would finish the 2022-23 season with averages of 19.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists at his hometown university. His percentage from the field improved to 40.7%, while his 3-point percentage slightly increased to 33.1%. The 2022-23 All-Mid-American Conference Third Team selection would score 20 or more points 12 different times during his time with Eastern Michigan, including as many as 43 points during a January loss to Toledo. He hit 15 of his 23 field goal attempts as the Rockets earned an 84-79 victory over Eastern Michigan in Toledo.
Bates would enter the NBA Draft in April.
“To me, it was a lot of unknowns. As I’ve said oftentimes, I’ve watched him from afar, but I didn’t know a lot about him,” Eastern Michigan head coach Stan Heath told The Detroit News in April. “I understood I was getting a player that was super-talented, but still had things he had to get better at as a young player. Obviously, we had a lot of ups and downs. It’s never easy when you’re going through a struggling season. And that’s not on him. That’s on the team itself, the coaches, and everyone.
“But I saw a lot of growth in him. I saw improvement, both defensively and making some plays as an assist guy. He’s a much better rebounder than when he first came in. He had some amazing games, and he had some struggles.”
Bates will likely need time before he can earn meaningful minutes in the Cavs’ rotation. Taking a chance on him with a second-round pick can deviate from at least some potential risk that comes with the former top-rated prospect. He showed promise at the NBA Draft Combine in May, a point ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony highlighted during a May conference call.
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“He really showed his shot-making ability in the scrimmages,” Givony said, via Forbes. “He hit some really, really tough shots off the dribble. That’s what he does. He’s a scorer. I think you look at his measurements, not really ideal in terms of 179 pounds, a wingspan that’s shorter than his height in shoes, athletic testing, didn’t test particularly well. I think we knew that about him. He’s not the most explosive athlete out there.
“So, I think he’s going to have to really continue to build on this week that he had and have some great workouts, have great interviews. I see him as a guy who is a second-round pick at best. I’m not sure that he’s guaranteed to hear his name called. But he’s 19 years old, so there’s a long road ahead of him. I think he’s a guy that NBA teams are going to kick the tires on, and he showed glimpses of his talent this week.”
The Cavs signed forward Isaiah Mobley to a two-way contract last July after he was taken with the No. 49 pick. Mobley finished his first season with the Charge with averages of 21 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in 22 games. He took a spot on the All-G League Third Team in April.
If Cleveland can do the same with Bates and have him alternate with the Cavs and the Cleveland Charge, it could give him the perfect environment to refine his craft, work on his shot selection and overall scoring efficiency before he officially makes the jump to the NBA.