Emoni Bates beams with joy when asked how much fun he’s having on Cavs

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On Monday, the Cleveland Cavaliers played Maccabi Ra’anana — a professional Israeli basketball club — at home in a preseason game.

As expected, the Cavaliers won by a wide margin of 120-89. Cleveland rookie Emoni Bates arguably had the best game of any player who suited up for the Cavaliers in the win.

In 23 minutes of play off the Cleveland bench, Bates scored 16 points and converted six of his 12 field-goal attempts, including four of his nine 3-point attempts. He also grabbed three rebounds and dished out one assist.

After the win, Bates beamed with excitement when he was asked about how much fun he’s having playing for the Cavaliers.

“A lot,” Bates said. “Yeah, a lot. I feel like everybody can tell too. I’m having fun for sure.”

Bates has reached double digits in points in each of Cleveland’s three preseason games to this point. On top of scoring 16 points on Monday, he scored 12 points against the Orlando Magic on Oct. 12 and 10 points against the Atlanta Hawks on Oct. 10. Plus, the 6-foot-9 forward shot 50 percent from the field or better in all of those games.

The Cavaliers chose the 19-year-old with the No. 49 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft after one forgettable season playing college basketball at the University of Memphis and one standout season at Eastern Michigan University.

He averaged 19.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.5 blocks per game while shooting 40.5 percent from the field and 33.0 percent from behind the 3-point arc in 30 games played with the Eagles during the 2022-23 season (29 starts). Bates also converted 78.2 percent of his free-throw attempts.

Cleveland’s preseason isn’t over yet, as the team will play the Indiana Pacers on Oct. 20, but Bates might have played himself into the Cavaliers’ regular-season rotation thanks to his encouraging preseason performances.

Here’s to hoping that Bates ends his promising preseason on a high note with another big scoring performance against the Pacers. After all, considering it will be the last preseason game for the Cavaliers, it’s possible that the team will rest its starters and give the rookie heavy minutes.

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Jesse is a sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA. He has worked as a staff writer at SB Nation’s CelticsBlog and The Knicks Wall.