3 Options for the OKC Thunder at pick 37 in the 2023 NBA Draft

Emoni Bates #21 of the Eastern Michigan Eagles (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Emoni Bates #21 of the Eastern Michigan Eagles (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
Emoni Bates #21 of the Eastern Michigan Eagles (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

The OKC Thunder have worked out Emoni Bates; could he be the answer in the second round? 

Emoni Bates is one of the most interesting draft prospects in the 2023 class. Once thought of as a Lottery pick, now Bates is projected to go in the second round with some off-the-floor attitude concerns. Frankly, it is hard to touch on whatever Bates’s off-the-floor issues are because, transparently, I hear different answers from everyone I talk to. So let’s keep it on the floor.

Bates started his college career at the University of Memphis, where the once compared to Kevin Durant forward played in 18 games to the tune of nine points, three rebounds, and an assist per contest while shooting 38 percent from the floor and 33 percent from beyond the arc. Then, the Ypsilanti, Michigan product went to Eastern Michigan, where he earned All-Mac honors.

At Eastern Michigan, the 6’8 (without shoes) 179-pound forward with a 6’9 wingspan played in 30 games, averaging 19 points, five rebounds, an assist, and 1.2 STOCKS per game while turning in 40/33/78 shooting splits.

Emoni Bates thrived in the pick-and-roll as a spot-up shooter, coming off screens/hand-offs and cutting to the basket off the ball. Where Bates impressed was in Isolation, he showed a great scoring touch and an ability to get to the basket off the bounce, create space, and lead the EMU offense.

Given his athletic ability, the fact he shot 38 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers, and his rim-finishing profile when cutting off-ball, it is easy to see Bates land a spot in an NBA rotation so long as everything off the floor checks out. When Bates is locked in, few players are better than him on the offensive side of the ball.

Defense remains a concern, but it is mainly due to his effort and motor; he has the tools and size to become a solid defender when engaged. In just 16 isolation possessions, Bates was only scored on four times, ranking in the 87th percentile as an iso-defender. His frame allowed him to wall up on post-up chances, and he flashed an ability to stay attached to his matchup, curling off screens in a limited sample as well.

Emoni Bates’ talent is worthy of the 37th overall pick; with the Oklahoma City Thunder meeting with and working out Bates, he might be a good option if he stumbles to the 37th selection. However, his path to NBA minutes would require some time in the G-League to get accustomed to professional basketball and iron out some things on the defensive end.