Emoni Bates a trendy pick for Suns in NBA mock drafts

Jun 14, 2023, 11:10 AM

Emoni Bates, Eastern Michigan, NBA mock drafts, Suns...

Emoni Bates #21 of the Eastern Michigan Eagles dribbles the ball during a college basketball game against the Detroit Mercy Titans at the George Gervin GameAbove Center on December 18, 2022 in Ypsilanti, Michigan. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

The small sample size of owner Mat Ishbia’s time with the Phoenix Suns has been defined by risk, from his Kevin Durant trade to a new television rights deal where money is left on the table.

So how the Suns approach the 2023 NBA Draft, even with just the 52nd overall pick, brings intrigue. Whereas Phoenix president of basketball ops and GM James Jones used to operate with a shrug during draft season, he has been empowered by his new boss to take more risks.

And because Phoenix is cash-strapped, the value of that 52nd overall pick is quite a bit more than in past years.

Do the Suns somehow package that and a contract to move up in the draft for a ready-to-play rookie? Do they think there’s value at staying there?

The mocks just about a week before the June 22 draft reflect Ishbia’s brief affinity to take big swings. Drafting Eastern Michigan wing Emoni Bates would certainly be a risk.

Out of five reputable two-round mock drafts updated relatively recently, three have the Suns selecting Bates, likely because Bates told reporters during the combine that he’d work out for Phoenix. Washington State big man Mouhamed Gueye makes up the other two mock selections.

Dubbed as one of the best pure scorers in his age group before he entered college, Bates spent a struggle of a freshman year at Memphis and has a misdemeanor gun possession charge on his arrest record. If he finishes a clean probationary period, that charge will be expunged.

Bates told The Athletic’s Shams Charania he made a bad decision by borrowing someone else’s car with someone else’s gun in it before running a stoplight on a way to a haircut, and that certainly reflects in his stock.

The basketball? It didn’t help much, either.

Bates averaged 9.7 points on 39% shooting as a freshman at Memphis before bumping his stats to 19.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists on 41% shooting this past year for Eastern Michigan.

At 6-foot-9 and not quite 190 pounds, he would need to add weight to hold up defensively against true wings.

There are offensive questions, too.

He took 7.7 threes per game, making up nearly half of his shot attempts, but hit just 33%. That was despite 51.3% of his threes being assisted, per Hoop-Math.

While Bates rehabilitates his image, it’s a wonder what scouts think of his ceiling.

One factor working in Bates’ favor is that he’s been under the spotlight from a young age. Kevin Durant, who he was once widely compared to, last December touched base with Bates after a game and as an idol of the young wing would presumably help him get on the right path to begin his professional career.

“I like that he’s going the total opposite route in life,” Durant told Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill. “Leaving school early, transferring from Memphis, got arrested. Went through some (expletive). You gotta go through some (expletive) in this life to truly understand where you are.

“He’s playing good ball right now … He’s a little more grounded.”

As for Gueye, he would bring untapped potential as well.

Gueye averaged 14.3 points and 8.4 rebounds with 1.9 assists and 0.8 blocks as a sophomore for the Cougars this season.

At 6-foot-11 and 210 pounds, he flashed a decent handle for his size, midrange touch and even some three-point shooting, though with far from efficient numbers.

2023 NBA mock draft picks – Suns

The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor

Eastern Michigan wing Emoni Bates

Finding quality mentors for Bates will be key to his future success. Kevin Durant has a relationship with him, so the Suns feel like a good situation for him to learn positive habits.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo

Eastern Michigan wing Emoni Bates


Eastern Michigan wing Emoni Bates

Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman

Washington State C Mouhamed Gueye

In a draft with limited true bigs, Gueye should hear his named called after a productive season that highlighted a combination of post skill, mid-range touch, face-up driving potential and rebounding motor.

ForTheWin.com’s Bryan Kalbrosky

Washington State C Mouhamed Gueye

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