NBA Draft

Can he play his way back into the lottery?

A 43-point explosion has people taking another look at Emoni Bates draft stock. Can the former top prospect play his way back into the NBA Draft Lottery?

There was a time when Emoni Bates was mentioned in the same breath as LeBron James, tabbed as one of the best high school players in the country. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated before he began his sophomore year of high school and simply piled up accolades for the next three years, entering college as one of the most highly-ranked recruits in the class.

But things haven’t gone according to plan since leaving high school.

Bates originally committed to Michigan State before de-committing and going to Memphis. He struggled mightily as a freshman, wrestling with injuries, different offensive responsibilities and the increased level of competition. Billed as an electric scorer, he averaged single digits and shot under 40 percent from the field.

At the end of that season, Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan, a MAC school from the spotlight. He’s worked to rebuild his draft stock — averaging 20.5 points per game, 5.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. That scoring potential was highlighted by a 43-point game against Toledo Tuesday night, where Bates scored 29 points in a row to close out the half.

Has Emoni Bates rehabbed his draft stock enough to get back in the NBA Draft Lottery?

Bates was ranked at No. 41 on our latest NBA Draft Big Board and despite his impressive numbers this season, it’s still a reasonably likely reflection of his current draft stock. His high school pedigree might earn him the benefit of the doubt from some teams and being a 6-foot-9 wing who can create for himself and make difficult shots doesn’t hurt either.

But remember that he’s putting up these impressive numbers against a much lower level of competition than he faced at Memphis. Per HoopMath, nearly a third of his shots are 2-point jumpers, which he’s making at a decent rate but not enough to build out a role at the next level. He doesn’t get to the rim at a high rate and you’d expect a player with his size and NBA potential to be much more effective against MAC opponents.

Bates is still an upside swing that might make a lot of sense late in the first round or early in the second. But his skill set is that of a primary creator and scorer and it’s not clear he’s good enough at those things to lead an NBA offense in that role. It’s hard to see any way he ends up as an NBA Draft Lottery pick at this point.

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