The Memphis Grizzlies signed Emoni Bates to a two-way contract on September 25, 2018. He is the first player of African descent to play in the NBA and has been with the team since then.
Emoni Bates is a 6’9 center who was born in the United States of America, and plays for Memphis. He has been on the radar of NBA scouts since he was 16 years old.
Emoni Bates, the No. 3 prospect in ESPN’s Top 100 for 2021, confirmed his commitment to the University of Memphis on Wednesday, putting an end to weeks of uncertainty regarding his on-court intentions. Bates, who made headlines as a 15-year-old when scouts likened him to LeBron James and Kevin Durant, was not previously thought of as a sure thing for college basketball. Bates was contemplating the NBA’s G League Path in addition to Memphis, Oregon, and a Michigan State program to which he had already committed. Instead, he’ll become one of college basketball’s most recognizable figures while playing for Penny Hardaway and a Tigers team that has risen to national prominence.
The biggest questions surrounding Bates’ decision were addressed by ESPN, including where he fits in a star-studded Tigers lineup, how long we might see the 17-year-old in college basketball, what skills NBA evaluators hope to see from Bates as he dons a Memphis uniform, and what the best evaluation opportunities (and most thrilling games) will be for Bates during a highly anticipated 2021-22 college basketball season.
What does Bates’ decision imply for Memphis’ hopes for the next 2021-22 campaign? Is this a squad that will compete in the Final Four?
Memphis is now a contender for the Final Four and the national title. There aren’t many stronger starting lineups or rotations in college basketball in terms of sheer skill. Three Memphis players are already rated in the top 70 of ESPN’s 2022 draft rankings, and Bates isn’t one of them. Coach Penny Hardaway returns three starters from the NIT Championship squad, along with three high-major transfers and four previous ESPN 100 prospects.
Memphis was barely outside the top 30 in ESPN’s Way Too Early rankings before Jalen Duren and Bates committed. Adding two top prospects to the mix alters the equation. Duren provides the Tigers with an inside anchor, someone who can have an instant impact on the glass and on defense, as well as finish around the basket. Bates comes in and immediately establishes himself as a go-to scorer, a guy who can get his shot off against any defender and will be the main focus of defensive game plans, allowing Landers Nolley II, DeAndre Williams, Lester Quinones, Earl Timberlake, and others to flourish.
Gonzaga, Kansas, Villanova, UCLA, Texas, and Purdue are among the teams at the top of my preseason rankings for 2021-22, and I believe Memphis belongs there. There will be doubts heading into the season, considering that Hardaway has yet to lead the Tigers to the NCAA tournament in his first three seasons as head coach, but this team has far too much potential to not be rated in the top 10 right away. Borzello, Jeff
Emoni Bates has committed to the University of Memphis, according to reports. pic.twitter.com/CSwHp9FTfT
August 25, 2021 — SportsCenter (@SportsCenter)
What role will Bates play in the Tigers’ lineup?
Bates, Nolley, Timberlake, Williams, and Duren are Memphis’ five most skilled players, and I believe Hardaway can play all five together for extended periods of time. Although the group lacks a true point guard, Timberlake was his team’s main ball handler in high school and can handle playmaking responsibilities, and Bates will have the ball in his hands often when starting offense (we’ll get to Bates’ point guard skills in a minute). Despite his height, Williams is an excellent passer who tallied up assists last season while playing as a small-ball 5.
Given the players’ height (all five are at least 6-foot-6) and length, that five would be overpowering defensively. In each of the last two seasons, the Tigers have placed in the top five nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency (No. 1 last season). Duren and Williams would be able to score in the interior, while Nolley and Bates would keep opponents honest on the perimeter. Going downhill off the dribble, Timberlake would make things happen.
The Tigers’ proclivity for turning the ball over and squandering possessions has been a major problem for Memphis under Hardaway. In 2019, they were rated 10th in the AAC in turnover %, last in 2020, and 11th last season. Going with a roster without a true point guard or an experienced ball handler may continue that trend, but I believe there will be enough playmaking to compensate.
Hardaway has a lot of choices if he wants to go in a different route. Quinones is the team’s top shooter and has started almost every game for the Tigers over the last two seasons, while Alex Lomax was a reliable player for Memphis until a left ankle injury sidelined him late last season. If the larger lineup isn’t working, Hardaway may turn to Lomax as a pure point guard. Tyler Harris, a 5-foot-9 point guard from Iowa State, started 11 games for the Cyclones last season, while Chandler Lawson, an Oregon transfer, is a dynamic frontcourt player. That’s not even taking into account the remainder of the incoming freshman who aren’t named Bates or Duren.
Memphis seems to have it everything on paper: size, shooting, defense, and playmakers. And now Bates provides the Tigers with that X element, a go-to player who can grab the ball in the closing seconds of a game and score a basket. Hardaway’s squad has few on-paper flaws, but it will take time for all of the pieces to mesh and come together. Borzello, Jeff
In the class of 2022, the top recruit is With LeBron James watching, Emoni Bates takes against Bronny in an AAU competition.
So Bates is going to be Memphis’ point guard?
Penny Hardaway persuaded Bates to take on the character of Penny Hardaway, with Duren portraying Shaquille O’Neal, in an effort to replicate the 1994-95 Orlando Magic team that reached the NBA Finals.
This year, Bates played a lot of point guard for the Bates Fundamentals on the Nike EYBL circuit, with mixed success. That was, however, on a squad with minimal skill and coaching.
Bates seemed to be a different player when I watched him play with Duren and Team Final AAU in May. He was much better at creating for teammates off a live dribble, particularly in the wide floor, where he was outstanding.
Memphis claims it will be a lineup-flexible squad that will play point guard by committee, with whomever gets the defensive board having the flexibility to push off the glass and kick forward to avoid being snagged in the half court. Givony, Jonathan
Emoni Bates is the first sophomore in history to be named Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year. With his electric mixtape, you’ll see why.
Since bursting onto the scene as a 15-year-old, Bates’ performances have been hit-or-miss. What elements of Bates’ game will NBA decision-makers consider while evaluating his performance in Memphis?
NBA clubs will be looking for Bates’ decision-making and overall scoring efficiency to improve in college. He scored 21 points in 28 minutes in the Nike EYBL this summer, but he did it by shooting only 43 percent from the field and 28 percent from three, with a nearly 1-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. In high school and AAU, Bates was allowed to attempt as many off-balance shots as he wanted, which resulted in either bad performances when his step-backs weren’t dropping or spectacular moments when they did.
Memphis has a lot of depth, experience, and skill. Hardaway will almost certainly want him to take on a new role this season, relying on his ability to enlist the help of others, which he can certainly accomplish. Even though he went 4-of-15 from the field, I saw him dish nine assists in an EYBL victory against the PSA Cardinals, as he dazzled with the way he passed ahead and found teammates on the move out of pick and roll.
For a Memphis team with genuine Final Four ambitions, Emoni Bates will be pushed into the limelight. Who Will Be Next?
Memphis will assist Bates in improving their defense. Given their height, experience, flexibility, and playmaking at every position, it wouldn’t be shocking to see them emerge as the greatest defensive team in college. As a prep player, Bates’ defensive effort was uneven, particularly off the ball. On defense, he’ll be challenged and urged to be more physical and intense than ever before, which will be beneficial to his growth. He’s always been known as a fierce competitor with a nasty streak, which, when coupled with his outstanding instincts, speaks well for his potential to become a good defender.
It’ll be fascinating to see how Bates compares to his college classmates in terms of size. On a weekly basis, Bates, 17, will have an uphill fight against athletes in their early twenties, but he has gained minimal weight to his 183-pound body since breaking onto the scene in 2018. NBA scouts who saw Bates play in the EYBL were taken aback by how difficult it was for him to beat opponents off the dribble and finish near the rim. His lack of strength could improve, but scouts will also be looking at how explosive he is and how adept he is at finishing in traffic. Givony, Jonathan
As things stand, Bates will be ineligible for the NBA draft in 2022. What are his current choices for 2022-23, and where do you think Bates’ chances of playing another year of collegiate basketball are?
Bates, I’m told, hasn’t given up hope of making the NBA draft in 2022, as sources say he intends to petition the league for an exemption that would enable him to join despite being 29 days too young. You must be 19 years old in the calendar year of the draft, which Bates was born in late January, according to the existing regulation.
I’d be surprised if the NBA agreed to it, since it would set off a chain reaction in which every player born too late would want to do the same. The NBA’s owners and players’ association have shown little interest in raising the age limit, and I’ve been informed that this issue has been pushed to the bottom of the league and union’s list of issues to resolve before the next collective bargaining agreement.
Staying at Memphis, playing in the G League, going abroad, or transferring to another school are all possibilities for him in 2022. What path he chooses will be determined by how well he does this season. Bates will almost certainly face a learning curve in college, and the dearth of shooting on Memphis’ roster won’t help him improve his scoring efficiency.
Considering that the NBA G League recently signed a junior college player (MarJon Beauchamp) to play for Ignite, it wouldn’t surprise me if they remained in the running for Bates, despite the fact that he is a year removed from graduating from high school and thus does not fit the profile of player Ignite typically recruits.
I believe Bates will return to Memphis for his second year to further solidify his status as a top-five pick in the 2023 draft class, which is shaping up to be very weak. Givony, Jonathan
Emoni Bates puts on a scoring clinic against Chet Holmgren and Team Sizzle, scoring 36 points.
Which games/matchups do you think will provide the greatest NBA evaluation chances for Bates in 2021-22, as well as appointment watching for fans?
Memphis set up an outstanding non-conference schedule that befits its preseason ranking as a top-five team and possible Final Four contender.
NBA executives will be in attendance for the NIT Season Tip-Off at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Nov. 24 and 26. The Tigers will face an experienced and well-coached Virginia Tech team in the first round, which is expected to be rated in the top 25, before facing either Iowa State or Xavier in the third-place or championship game.
The highlight of their schedule will be a home game against Alabama on Dec. 14 and a road game against in-state foe Tennessee on Dec. 18. Each club has a different style of basketball, but they both have enough length, athletic ability, and experience to put Bates to the test and see where he stands.
Before reclassifying to the 2021 class, Emoni Bates was the top-ranked talent in the Class of 2022. Who Will Be Next?
Memphis may potentially hold a pro day for NBA clubs in early October, similar to what it did with James Wiseman and Precious Achiuwa two years ago, which was a success for both the Tigers and the executives. More than 100 NBA representatives are expected to attend.
Both of Memphis’ games against the Houston Cougars in conference play will be must-see basketball. Houston, which is coming off a Final Four appearance, is typically one of the greatest defensive teams in the nation. It has a lot of talent returning, and it has acquired more via the transfer channel to compensate what it has lost.
Wichita State, which finished 11-2 in the American Athletic League last season, and SMU will also be strong conference challenges in the American. Givony, Jonathan
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