Cavs’ JB Bickerstaff: Emoni Bates is ‘Shot-Creator From All Levels’

CLEVELAND — It wasn’t much to go on, a preseason game against a team that doesn’t play in the NBA.Emoni Bates

But Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff did see some value in the victory over Israeli club Macabbi Ra’Anana. (Related Dribbles.)

“That’s the way we want to play. We want to try to create as much ball movement as we can, share the game offensively,” Bickerstaff said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can play offense. So the more you make teams chase — there are so many guys out there that can make a play and finish it. Just trying to get everybody involved offensively and that starts with the ball movement.”

Rookie Emoni Bates again showed flair and promise, leading the Cavs with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting. That included a pull-up 3-pointer on the break and a backdoor layup. Bates went 4-of-9 on threes — though Bickerstaff will tell you the No. 49 overall pick is more than just a perimeter shooter.

“I think with the spacing that we play with, he’s kind of taking what’s there and what’s given to him. Emoni is a shot-creator from all levels,” Bickerstaff said. “But with the way our offense is right now and with the way the ball is moving, he’s in the right spot. And the spot is behind the (3-point line) and his teammates are finding him. As he grows, you’ll see he has the ability to make shots from all over the floor.”

The praise didn’t end there. On this night, it was from Bickerstaff. But ask anyone on the team, and the vibe about the rising Bates has been highly positive. 

His coach thinks the Cavs are good for him, too.

“Again, we are extremely fortunate that Emoni was there at (No. 49 overall in the NBA Draft),” Bickerstaff said. “I believe that Emoni is fortunate to be here also because I think the pairing works. Also for the development and advancement for his career. I believe if Emoni had gone in the lottery he’d have been the type of player who’d have been in the Rookie of the Year conversation. We are extremely fortunate that he’s here with us and we look forward to working with him.”

With the likes of Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley, Max Strus and Jarrett Allen (when healthy) penciled in as starters, all the Cavs need to do now is figure out who’s getting most of the minutes behind them.

Bates is on a two-way contract — but is playing his way into the conversation. Georges Niang, Caris LeVert, Isaac Okoro, Dean Wade, Ty Jerome and Damian Jones are as well.

As any coach or GM will tell you, this is what’s known as a good problem.

“We have a lot of guys who can contribute. It’s a matter of how deep do we want to go. How deep can you go without disrupting everybody?” Bickerstaff said. “But we all know the NBA season is long. You’re gonna need that depth, and you’re gonna need different things from different people on different nights. So we’re confident in our depth and throughout the season everybody’s going to get a chance.”

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