Basketball world takes notice as Emoni Bates goes crazy in G League debut: ‘Steal of the draft’

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Emoni Bates drew rave reviews, including one from Cleveland Cavaliers star Donovan Mitchell, thanks to a standout performance in the G League on Friday, further enhancing the idea he was the steal of the 2023 NBA Draft.

Making his G League debut with the Cleveland Charge, the second-round draft choice (No. 49 overall) scored 29 points – with seven 3-pointers – in a 116-109 victory against the Wisconsin Herd.

It drew some solid reactions on social media, including a late-night exchange between Mitchell and the 19-year-old.

Bates has been an exciting player at least as far back as his middle school days, and in high school, he once was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. But a somewhat disappointing collegiate career caused his draft stock to fall, and Cleveland took advantage by selecting him this past June.

The choice drew almost immediate praise, with one NBA player calling Bates the best player in the draft back then. Mitchell also weighed in this summer, calling the young prospect “a hell of a player.”

Bates, who played well in Summer League action, signed a two-way contract with the Cavs. He played in two NBA regular season games, scoring nine points in his second appearance, before making his first appearance in the G League.

The Cavaliers needed Bates earlier this season while dealing with some injuries, and he is certainly off to a good start in making his case to be back with them quickly.

Cleveland is off to a sluggish 3-5 start to the 2023-24 NBA season and opened a four-game road trip against Western Conference teams with a 128-120 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday. The Cavs play at the Golden State Warriors on Saturday. They defeated the Warriors 115-104 at home last Sunday.

The Cavaliers took steps this offseason to improve their offense, but they rank just 26th in the NBA entering Saturday at 108.6 points per game. Bates has certainly shown an ability to score, further proven by his standout debut in the G League, so he could be in line to provide a jolt if and when he is summoned back to the NBA.

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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.