Dejounte Murray says Cavs rookie Emoni Bates is best player in 2023 NBA Draft

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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

In the opinion of Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray, the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired the best player in the 2023 NBA Draft by selecting Emoni Bates.


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Dejounte Murray and Emoni Bates

Bates was selected with the 49th overall pick in the second round of the draft. Players taken in the latter half of the second round are generally not perceived as future NBA superstars and often lucky to even make a team.

However, Bates is an intriguing case who could turn into that elusive superstar or be a complete bust. That conundrum is likely one of the main reasons why Bates wasn’t taken much earlier.

During his high school days, Bates was considered by some to be a next-generation talent and, like LeBron James, found a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Yet, unlike James, Bates has never been able to capitalize on his ample potential and instead developed into a giant question mark.

Originally, Bates committed to play collegiately at Michigan State University. However, the Michigan native later decommitted and instead chose a school far from his Ypsilanti, Mich. home.

Bates began his college basketball career at the University of Memphis in 2021. During that lone season with the Tigers, Bates only played in 18 games (13 starts), averaging 9.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game.

One of the issues that plagued Bates during his time at Memphis was a back injury that kept him out of 15 games. The early promise that saw him score at least 15 points in each of his first three games faded and resulted in him returning home to play for Eastern Michigan University.

Yet, even before he played for Eastern Michigan, off-the-court controversy caused Bates to be suspended due to felony gun charges. While those charges were later dropped, they raised more questions about Bates’ potential viability as an NBA player.

The Cavaliers are taking something of a chance by selecting Bates, though they checked him out in the months leading up to the draft.

Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell has already made contact with Bates in an effort to welcome him to the fold. That effort is an early sign that the team wants to give Bates every opportunity to succeed.

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Brad Sullivan is a lead writer for Cavaliers Nation. He has spent much of life in the Cleveland, Ohio area, and has remained a Cavalier fan from their 1970 beginnings through the return of LeBron James. While that fandom was sorely tested during the Reign of Error known simply by one word, Stepien, that overall historical perspective will be part of his writing for Cavaliers Nation in the months ahead.