Emoni Bates emerged as one of the stars of NBA Summer League, helping Cleveland win title

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Emoni Bates, once a surefire NBA lottery pick, had a circuitous route to professional basketball.

But if you put any stock into Summer League, the end may justify the means.

Bates, the Ypsilanti native who was once the top middle school and high school basketball player in his class, was a second-round pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in last month’s NBA draft.

His journey is basketball is well documented. From a freshman run to the state title at Ypsilanti Lincoln, to a pandemic-era season at Ypsi Prep, to reclassification and a struggle to fit in at Memphis. Last season, before a run-in with the law, he became a big-time scorer at Eastern Michigan. But there were still questions as to whether an NBA team would take a chance on him.

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Cleveland, owned by fellow Michigan native Dan Gilbert, took that chance. And the first taste of pro ball came in Las Vegas, and the 6-foot-9 guard who was once on the cover of “Sports Illustrated” seemed to more than just fit.

Bates helped the Cavs win the Summer League championship and was named to the All-Summer League second team after average 17.2 points on 43.9% shooting and 40% (18-for-45) from the 3-point line over six games. He averaged nearly 30 minutes per game in the 40-minute contests and also averaged six rebounds per game and shot 100% on his 13 free-throw attempts.

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Cleveland won all six of its Summer League games, including the title game over Houston on Monday night. In that game, Bates had 19 points, five rebounds and four assists.

But he showed some flashes on defense, too, with an impressive chase down block during Monday’s game.

Now, of course, we take Summer League stats with a grain of salt so big it could melt an iceberg. But if nothing else, Bates looked comfortable and free as a basketball player, something he may not have experienced on a big stage … maybe ever.

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Again, this doesn’t mean start making All-Star Game plans for him. Or even rotational player plans (though Cleveland, penciled in as a playoff team in the Eastern Conference, does have a question mark at wing), but if nothing else, it’s nice to see the player once thought to be a Chris Webber or Magic Johnson-level prospect play well while wearing the NBA logo.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Emoni Bates emerged as one of the stars of NBA Summer League

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