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Danny Cunningham covers the Cleveland Cavaliers for 850 ESPN Cleveland and thelandondemand.com. You can follow him on Twitter @RealDCunningham.
Thursday night’s NBA Draft was a relatively uneventful one for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Despite rumors that the team could trade up into the back half of the first round, the Cavs did not do so, instead only making a pick at No. 49 overall. Exactly the position they entered the night at.
Not trading up into the end of the first round isn’t a big deal. This was an opportunity for the Cavaliers to be aggressive, but it’s far from the only opportunity to do so. There wasn’t as much action in terms of teams trading into that area as it originally was thought possible. Many of the teams that entered the first round on Thursday night with multiple picks ended up standing pat, rather than repurposing those picks.
The opportunities to be aggressive for the Cavs will appear, they just didn’t quite show up the way they could have on Thursday night.
And the pick is…
With the 49th pick the Cavaliers selected Emoni Bates, a 6-foot-8 wing out of Eastern Michigan.
Bates is a really good value pick this late in the draft. He certainly comes with baggage and there’s a reason he was available deep in the second round, but he was regarded as one of the top prospects in the high school class of 2021.
Bates started his collegiate career at The University of Memphis before transferring to Eastern Michigan following his freshman year that included missing significant time with injuries near the end of the season. He then transferred to Eastern Michigan for his sophomore year.
While at Eastern Michigan, Bates was suspended from the team following an arrest on gun charges in September. The charges would later be dropped and he was reinstated to the team. In the 30 games with Eastern Michigan, Bates averaged 19.2 points per game and 5.8 rebounds.
The upside for Bates is that of a high level scorer with the size to be a good defender on the wing, even if that hasn’t been realized yet. Bates has the ability to make difficult shots off the dribble and has quite an arsenal of moves in getting to places he’s comfortable shooting the basketball.
What could make or break Bates early on with the Cavs is whether or not he’s able to knock down open 3-pointers. While in college, Bates only made 33 percent of his looks from beyond the arc, but the type of attempts he was taking, especially in his second season, could look much different than what could be available to him on the Cavs. According to The Ringer, Bates connected on nearly 40 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-point chances. That’s a really good sign. Furthermore, Bates being a 78 percent free throw shooter gives reason to believe that he can become a good shooter from the outside in the NBA.
At the end of the day, if Bates ends up being a contributor with the Cavaliers this is a massive win. The success rate for guys selected 49th overall isn’t very high.
It’s rare that a player with as much talent as Bates falls this deep into the draft. He was considered the No. 5 prospect in his high school class according to the 247 Sports Composite Ranking. Of the top 10 players in that class, Bates is represents the lowest draft pick. That group includes five top-10 picks and two additional first-round selections. For further context, Scoot Henderson, who was selected third overall on Thursday night by the Portland Trail Blazers, was the 10th ranked player in the class.
The high school rankings are obviously not the be-all-end-all here. A lot can change in a very short time, but the talent that put Bates in the same grouping as guys like Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, Jabari Smith Jr., and Shaedon Sharpe, and Henderson didn’t just disappear.
If this doesn’t work out for the Cavaliers, it’s not that big of a deal. Missing on the 49th overall selection happens more often than it doesn’t. The upside that Bates possesses is certainly worth the selection.