Where can the Cleveland Cavaliers go heading into NBA Free Agency?

The Cavaliers will have 10 players under contract for the 2023-24 season, according to sports contract and salaries website Spotrac. Guard Caris LeVert, center Robin Lopez, guard Raul Neto and guard Danny Green will be unrestricted free agents in 2023. Cleveland picked up the team option for forward Lamar Stevens last Friday.

The Cavs entered the 2023 NBA Draft without a first-round selection. They needed to boost their production off the bench, find a solidified option at the small forward spot, add a reliable backup big, and bring more consistent shooters and scorers aboard. Only LeVert scored in double digits for Cleveland outside of its big four. Their 34.4% from 20-24 feet and 31.2% from 25-29 feet put them at 11th and 15th among teams that made the postseason, respectively, according to NBA.com. Their need for extra scoring help became more apparent when only three players could score in double digits in the team’s five-game series against the New York Knicks.

Cleveland did have one shot with the No. 49 pick. The Cavs had plenty of options to either try and play it safe with a player who could fit their system right away or take a chance on a rising prospect with the potential to be something special.

What was the best decision the Cavs made in the 2023 NBA Draft?

Drafting Emoni Bates

It’s hard to find an opportunity to swing for the fences this far down in the NBA Draft.

The Cavs managed to take Eastern Michigan forward Emoni Bates with the No. 49 selection in Thursday’s draft. Bates, a former 5-star prospect from Ypsilanti, Mich., averaged 19.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game during his lone season with the Eagles. The 6-foot-9-inch forward showed promise at the NBA Draft Combine in May.

“He really showed his shot-making ability in the scrimmages,” ESPN draft analyst Jonathan 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.”

If there’s any time for Cleveland to take a risk on a young small forward prospect, it would be now.

The Cavaliers need to find a player who can start at the three for the foreseeable future. Bates will likely have to spend time with the Cleveland Charge to add strength and improve his shooting efficiency. But if he can live up to the hype he once had as the No. 5-ranked player in the 2021 recruiting class, Cleveland can finally have a solid young starter to fit alongside guard Donovan Mitchell, guard Darius Garland, forward Evan Mobley and center Jarrett Allen in the starting lineup.