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Cleveland Cavaliers pick Emoni Bates in the 2023 NBA Draft

Bates has had a long, winding journey to the NBA.

NCAA Basketball: Eastern Michigan at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers, with their only pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, went for a wing. And one who has been on a winding road to the NBA.

With the No. 49 overall pick, the Cavs selected forward Emoni Bates out of Eastern Michigan. Bates, at one point, was the No. 1 prospect in his class before enrolling at Memphis, having a up-and-down season there and then spending last season at Eastern Michigan in his native Michigan.

Bates’ path to the NBA has been unique. In 2020, he initially committed to play for Michigan State. A year later, though, he decommitted from the Spartans and ended up playing for Penny Hardaway at Memphis. And because he reclassified from the 2022 class to the 2021 class, he entered college at 17. He was limited at Memphis due to injury and finished the year averaging 9.7 points and 3.3 rebounds while shooting 38.6 percent from the field.

He then transferred to Eastern Michigan, where he was third team All-MAC with averages of 19.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. He shot 40.5% from the field, including 47.4% on twos and 33% from three.

This is a developmental play for the Cavs. Bates will not be ready to play NBA minutes this year based on what we know about him now. It seems like he will be best served spending a whole season in the G League with the Cleveland Charge. That will be true if he’s signed to a regular NBA contract or a two-way deal.