Emoni Bates admits he was interested in being drafted by Memphis Grizzlies because of Ja Morant

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According to Emoni Bates, he had interest in getting selected by the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2023 NBA Draft, based on his relationship with Ja Morant, before winding up with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Bates fell into the second round, where the Cavs drafted him with the No. 49 overall pick last month. Since arriving with Cleveland, he has spoken highly of the opportunity, in fact saying the Cavs have rekindled his love of the game.

Bates said he likes the fact he can concentrate on just playing rather than worrying about generating attention. The 19-year-old has been in the spotlight since his high school days, first for his substantial on-court talents then unfortunately for an off-court issue.

Bates, who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated while in high school, played his freshman collegiate season at the University of Memphis and became friends with Morant, who was playing for the Grizzlies.

“He check in with me every here and there,” Bates said recently. “That’s big bro. He always check in with me. I’m pretty sure he’s going to text me when I get to the hotel. I try to talk to him as much as I can.”

After a back injury contributed to a disappointing campaign at Memphis, Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan University. However, before playing for the school, he was suspended due to felony gun charges that were later dropped.

He was reinstated and averaged 19.2 points per game as a sophomore before declaring for the draft. Bates scored 21 points against the Grizzlies in a recent Summer League game, showing the potential some observers believe he has. One NBA player sees him as the best player selected in the 2023 draft.

Memphis did have a chance to grab Bates in the second round but instead drafted Gregory Jackson II at No. 45 overall, four picks before Cleveland.

The issue involving the gun charge may have scared off some teams, particularly in the wake of the controversy surrounding Morant, who will serve a suspension for the first 25 games of this season following his second social media display with a firearm.

For the Cavs’ part, they seem very happy to have Bates on the team, with franchise player Donovan Mitchell praising the teenager.

Along with offseason acquisitions Max Strus and Georges Niang, Bates should fit in nicely within the team’s revamped offense. If he can reach the on-court success and status of his All-Star buddy Morant, Cleveland will have gotten one of the steals of the draft.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. One of his favorite sports memories is the Cavaliers-Nets playoff series from 1993.