Once considered a top NBA prospect, Emoni Bates’s journey to draft night has been anything but ordinary, from a disappointing freshman season to a run-in with the law. Now, the forward who was once hailed “the next Kevin Durant” at 15 years old is proving to league executives and fans that he is still worthy of a team’s pick.
Emoni Bates 2023 Draft Profile
Originally a five-star recruit out of Ypsi Prep Academy, Bates originally committed to Michigan State before backing out and signing with Memphis. He played 18 games for the Tigers in an underwhelming season, averaging 9.7 points on 38% shooting from the field and constantly battling injuries. The Ypsilanti, Mich. native then returned home to Eastern Michigan University, where, after an arrest and subsequent two-month suspension, he broke out for an average of 19.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game on 40% shooting from the field, 33% from three and 78% from the free-throw line. His strong play in a bounce-back season was enough to earn a spot on the 2022-23 All-MAC Team.
At 6-foot-9, Bates is an electric three-level scorer, whether it’s knocking down deep threes or finishing through contact in the paint. He excels at shooting off the catch and burying triples in transition, and he’s shown flashes of a decent mid-range game as well. His footwork and overall shot creation are superb, as is his distinct athleticism that’s been on display since high school. He is constantly, as ESPN’s Mark Jones would say, “deep in his bag like the fries are at the bottom.” Bates’s offensive repertoire is evident throughout his game, and he’s solidified himself as a prolific scorer whose work could translate well at the next level.
Bates’s finishing, handles, and scoring were all on display at the NBA Draft Combine, as was his defense. Highlight clips showed Bates getting scrappy on the perimeter and using his hops to swat everything near the rim. For someone whose offense garnered plenty of attention, he showed that he’s a solid defender as well.
One glaring weakness of Bates is his nimble frame. As NBA wings usually clock in around 200-230 pounds, Bates is more of a big guard with his slender 179-pound measurement. It doesn’t stop him from driving to the rim, but getting in the weight room will be a key factor if he wants to keep getting good looks against pro competition. Bates’s draft combine measurements—a 6-foot-9 wingspan coupled with a 32-inch vertical and finishing dead last in three-quarter sprints (3.49 secs)—have also raised concerns.
And though Bates is a gifted scorer, it can lead to selfishness on the offensive end. Having averaged 1.4 assists per game throughout his college career and recording one assist in each of his combine scrimmages, his playmaking and court vision will have to improve if he wants to fit into any team’s offense.
NBA Player Comparison
Do the Kevin Durant comparisons still hold up? Yes. It’s clear that Emoni Bates has an array of offensive moves ready to be unleashed at any time, and he has continued to add to it as the years have gone on. Though he might not be as good of a playmaker as Durant was when he was a rookie (2.4 APG), Bates has the potential to turn into a point-forward and improve his game exponentially as a result.