Emoni Bates: ‘There were a lot of people picked ahead of me that shouldn’t have been’

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Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff recently made some comments about young forward Emoni Bates that caught the attention of some fans.

“We are extremely fortunate that Emoni was there at (No. 49),” Bickerstaff said. “I believe that Emoni is fortunate to be here also, because I think the pairing works for his development and advancement of his career.

“I believe if Emoni had gone in the lottery he’d have been the type of player who’d have been in the Rookie of the Year conversation. We are extremely fortunate that he’s here with us and we look forward to working with him.”

Cavs insider Evan Dammarell recently asked Bates about the comments from Bickerstaff, and the rookie provided a candid (yet mature) response.

“I agree for sure,” Bates said. “I feel, in my opinion, that there were a lot of people picked ahead of me that shouldn’t have been. But, I don’t pay attention to that. My focus is to come in here and get better each and every day. Like you said, this situation is perfect for that.”

Despite being drafted in the second round of the 2023 NBA Draft, Bates has seemingly gotten more attention this offseason than some first-round picks. The Cavs only had one selection in the draft, and they used it to add the Eastern Michigan University product.

Some time ago, Bates was thought to be a future lottery pick, but a rocky collegiate career impacted his stock. He was passed on 48 times in the draft before the Cavs decided to stop his slide with the No. 49 overall pick.

During his 2022-23 season at EMU, Bates averaged 19.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game while shooting 40.5 percent from the field and 33.0 percent from beyond the arc. He did enough to earn all-conference honors, perhaps salvaging some of his draft stock along the way.

Since joining the Cavs, the youngster has seemingly fallen in love with basketball again — a huge development after he evidently lost his love for the game during his collegiate career.

Bates has already had some success in a Cavs uniform, as he helped them win this year’s Summer League title and is enjoying an impressive preseason. The rookie is averaging 12.7 points per game in the preseason while shooting 51.9 percent from the field and 45.0 percent from deep.

It’s unclear what type of role Bates — who is on a two-way deal — will play for Cleveland this season, but there seems to be no shortage of confidence in him. He’s undoubtedly motivated to punish the teams that passed on him in the draft, and if the dominoes fall his way, he could enjoy a long career at the NBA level.

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Jason has covered the NBA for multiple years and is very excited about the future of the Cleveland Cavaliers.