NBA Scouts Weigh In On ‘Polarizing’ Eastern Michigan Star Emoni Bates

Take a look at a few NBA mock drafts and you’ll notice a consistency towards the top.

Victor Wembanyama, the 7-foot-5 French star, is a lock to be the No. 1 overall pick, with guard Scoot Henderson of G League Ignite widely expected to go No. 2. One NBA agent told me Wembanyama, who has drawn comparisons to a taller version of Kevin Durant, could end up being the “greatest player ever.” Take that for what it’s worth.

After that, there are a number of college players projected to fill out the lottery along with a set of twin brothers from Overtime Elite, the semiprofessional league based in Atlanta, in Amen and Ausar Thompson.

Once upon a time, Emoni Bates was in the mix for the one of the top spots in this summer’s draft — maybe the top spot. He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 15-year-old and was called “a young Kevin Durant” by ESPN and said to “often resemble a 6’ 9” Stephen Curry” in the SI story.

But a lot has happened since then. The short version is Bates is on his second school after transferring to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, and last fall he had felony gun charges dropped after he was pulled over by police while driving someone else’s car. A gun and weed were found in the vehicle.

Scan some mocks and you’ll see the 6-foot-9 Bates — who turns 19 on Saturday — ranging from No. 26 on SB Nation to No. 47 on to No. 55 on Tankathon.

A source close to Bates’ camp said they had spoken with 20 teams and his draft projection ranges from 20-45, which sounds about right.

“He will be a polarizing guy,” one NBA scout said of Bates. “I would guess someone will take a chance.”

“He’s a talented offensive player who right now is a 2nd-round pick,” a second NBA executive said. “Risky, but worth the risk.”

On Tuesday, Bates made national news by scoring 29 straight points in the first half of Eastern Michigan’s 84-79 loss to Toledo and finished with 43 on 65% shooting while going 9-of-14 from three.

“That dude is an offensive player,” ESPN’s Seth Greenberg said on air after the game.

Bates also scored 36 in a loss to South Carolina, 30 in a loss to then-No. 22 Michigan, 29 in a loss to Florida Atlantic and 26 twice, most recently in a Jan. 7 win over Central Michigan.

“He started getting compared to Kevin Durant, and that’s hard for any young person,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard, an NBA veteran, said after the game on Nov. 11.

He added: “There’s a chance for this young man to do some special things in the game of basketball.”

For the season, Bates is averaging 20.5 points and 5.7 rebounds on 44% shooting. Eastern Michigan is 4-16 on the season.

Bates is the only college underclassman averaging 20+. Alabama freshman Brandon Miller, an All-America candidate, is averaging 19.5 and is a projected lottery pick.

A year ago, as a 17-year-old, Bates averaged 9.7 points during a turbulent season under Penny Hardaway at Memphis.

NBA scouts are still weighing Bates’ potential upside.

“I’m all over the place,” a third scout said. “Perspective is a big thing with that one. I think it’s about deciphering who the kid is compared to the background and story…if he can be salvaged … what type of kid is he? Does he value winning? Can he do things other than scoring that impact the bottom line?”

The jury is out and there’s still a few months left in this season. But for now, Bates is trending upward and has helped himself this season if he opts to enter the draft.

It will be fascinating to see where he lands and how his career unfolds going forward.