What a night.
The 2023 NBA Draft featured its fair share of surprise picks and draft-day trades. The Washington Wizards remained active as the draft unfolded in the Barclays Center, trading for the No. 7 pick and Metropolitans 92 forward Bilal Coulibaly before trading the 35th selection to the Chicago Bulls for two future second-round picks.
Villanova forward Cam Whitmore, a top-5 selection in the NBA’s consensus mock draft, slipped down to the Houston Rockets with the No. 20 pick. Houston selected Overtime Elite guard Amen Thompson at No. 4, further building up a fun young core that features former Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr., a former No. 2 pick in guard Jalen Green and a former Cleveland Cavalier in guard Kevin Porter Jr.
When the dust settled, the Cavaliers ended the night with the same selection they started with.
Did Cleveland’s decision to stay at 49 ultimately pay off? What grades do Cleveland’s selections in the 2023 NBA Draft deserve? How can their newly-added rookies make an impact on their roster?
49, Emoni Bates Grade: B+
It’s often said that patience is a virtue.
From as far back as the trade deadline, the Cavaliers have stuck by their willingness to be patient and wait for the right move to come their way.
The Cavs stood pat as teams traded a flurry of players and second-round picks by February’s deadline, including blockbuster trades that sent forward Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns and guard Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks.
“From a trade standpoint, we just didn’t feel anything that could move the needle for us,” Altman said in February, via Right Down Euclid Editor-in-Chief Evan Dammarell. “We could’ve made multiple moves that were lateral that didn’t really make us better.
“It’s not easy for me. You know I’m volume heavy. But, I had to take a step back and see where we are.”
The Cavs remained patient as they stood pat throughout the draft. They remained patient as players like Xavier guard Colby Jones, Washington State forward Mouhamed Gueye and Pepperdine forward Maxwell Lewis were selected with the picks before them in the second round. They remained patient as Penn State guard Seth Lundy, a former teammate of Cavs forward Lamar Stevens, was taken three picks ahead of their spot at 49.
Stevens couldn’t help congratulating his former Nittany Lions teammate in an early-Friday tweet.
“AHHHHH!!!!! I could cry man,” Stevens wrote. “I’m so proud of you man!! @sethlundy1 you just getting started…”
For now, the Cavaliers’ patience paid off.
They were able to take a chance on Eastern Michigan forward Emoni Bates with their second-round selection in the 2023 NBA Draft. Bates, a former 5-star recruit from Ypsilanti, Mich., earned 19.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game during his only season with the Eagles. He scored 20 points or more 12 different times at Eastern Michigan, including a 30-point performance during a 88-83 loss to the Michigan Wolverines in November.
The Cavaliers entered the draft with a need for a solidified option at the small forward spot. Cleveland cycled through multiple options at the three spot throughout the NBA season before finally narrowing its choices down to forward Isaac Okoro and guard Caris LeVert by the NBA Playoffs. Even then, it still couldn’t make its final decision as the New York Knicks took the Cavs down in five games, starting Okoro in two games before giving LeVert the starting role in the final three matchups.
Quenton Albertie ·
Alex Sabri ·
The Cavs picked up the $1.9 million team option for Stevens on Friday, retaining a forward who represented the value of toughness etched into the original version of the Junkyard Dog Chain. Stevens, who signed a multiple-year contract with Cleveland in 2021, started in 25 games for Cleveland during the 2022-23 season.
Bates likely won’t be able to make a massive impact for the Cavaliers this season.
Even as he saw his averages explode following his transfer from Memphis to Eastern Michigan, Bates still shot at an inefficient 40.5% from the field and 33% from the 3-point line. He measured in at 179.2 pounds at the NBA Draft Combine in May, according to Bleacher Report.
But selecting him later in the second round could take away some of the risk of bringing in the former No. 5 prospect in the nation. If he can follow the path of Cavs forward Isaiah Mobley, who was able to split time with the Cavs and the Cleveland Charge after he was signed to a two-way contract, he would be able to spend some extra time adding strength and sharpening his efficiency before he officially makes the leap onto the Cavs’ roster.
Either way, Cleveland took a safer swing for the fences with this selection.
Let’s hope its gamble pays off.