The basketball journey to the big leagues has been all but normal for Emoni Bates as the 19-year-old superstar is gearing up to officially be an NBA professional in a little over a month. Just a week and a half ago, Bates officially entered his name into the 2023 NBA Draft as he confirmed on his Instagram.
Once deemed as the top prospect in the world and a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated at just 15 years old, after two seasons in college hoops at Memphis University and Eastern Michigan University, questions have been raised about Bates’ draft stock.
At Memphis, Bates played a total of 18 games as he battled through injury, averaging 9.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, and 1.3 APG. Meanwhile, at Eastern Michigan, he played a total of 30 games while averaging 19.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG, and 1.4 APG.
Let’s take a look at where Bates is ranked as an NBA prospect, as well as his draft projections:
For starters, Bates is currently ranked as the 56th best prospect in the upcoming NBA draft by ESPN. To give a little background, there are a total of 60 picks in the draft, but this year there will be only 58 spots as two teams have lost draft picks.
Sports Illustrated's NBA draft rankings have Bates ranked at 56 as well out of 60 total players.
CBS and Bleacher Report's NBA draft rankings had a total of 50 players ranked, but Bates was not listed.
247sports, famous for their high school and college recruiting rankings, composed a list back in March of every NBA prospect playing college basketball as Bates was included on that list.
Sam Vecenie of The Athletic ranked his top 100 draft prospects, and Bates ranked at No. 76.
NBA Draft Room: Round 2, pick 48 - Los Angeles Clippers
With Bates’ style of play and his need of having the ball in his hands, this is a team that I'm not very high on drafting him. Although I do see Bates thriving in a big market franchise, with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George being Los Angeles’ core, and the presence of Russell Westbrook and Bones Hyland in that rotation, Los Angeles might not value Bates enough for him to succeed there.
Bleacher Report: Round 2, pick 42 - Denver Nuggets (via Mavericks)
Out of the three in this list, Denver seems like the most logical fit for Bates, although there are some doubts. The offensive versatility of superstar Nikola Jokic creates a ton of space on the floor for Bates to get a lot of open shots beyond the arc. With that being said, Bates’ decision-making on the offensive end with his shot selection could cause some troubles in Denver, which was the same case that drove Bones Hyland elsewhere.
Rookie Wire (USA Today): Round 2, pick 50 - Memphis Grizzlies
With the recent controversy that has been going on in Memphis, this is a very intriguing but high-risk-reward situation. If Bates can improve the flaws in his offensive arsenal while developing on the defensive side of the ball, putting that with superstar Ja Morant, this can potentially be a very scary threat to other teams in the league. The risk here is if Memphis can get their heads on straight as a seasoned veteran is highly needed with this overconfident young group.
There has been a lot of talk about Bates’ draft stock depleting and how diminished it has become due to his play throughout the two years of college basketball and off-court issues. To me, the upside that Bates carries far outweighs the issues that others have been presenting about him.
For one, this is a kid that we had talked about a couple of years ago becoming the next big thing in NBA basketball. It is understood that the hype dried out with his struggles in Memphis, but he proved at EMU that he has the factors to become a superstar in the league.
With the 30-point performance against college basketball powerhouse Michigan, or the 29-straight point performance against Kent State that had the sports world buzzing, I just don’t understand how you can fully count this kid out.
And the off-court issues, what issues are we talking about? The gun incident that happened back in September in a car that wasn’t even his? We’ve seen far worse happen to young athletes with little to no criticism, an example being Alabama’s Brandon Miller and his situation, who is still considered to be a top-3 pick in this year's draft.
With that being said, anything can happen, which means we must not rule out the possibility of Bates not hearing his name called in this year’s draft. What would happen then?
Well, if Bates doesn’t hire an agent, he would still maintain his college eligibility and could return to college basketball, although he hasn’t given any word on this matter, likely meaning that scenario is out of the picture.
Bates could also sign with an NBA organization as an undrafted free agent and would have to compete to make the team through workouts, practices, and the NBA Summer League. If a team doesn’t sign him if he were to go undrafted, then he could sign with a G League affiliate team and work his way onto a full roster spot in the NBA.
If Bates decides that he doesn't want to go that route, then he would most likely sign with a team overseas and study abroad in a country like Australia, Europe, or China, something that is very common among players who choose to not go with the G League path.
The 2023 NBA Draft will be held on June 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, and will be aired on ESPN and ABC.
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