Nets Linked to Polarizing Former ‘Prodigy’ in 2023 NBA Draft

Brooklyn Nets

Getty Emoni Bates #21 of the Eastern Michigan Eagles.

The Brooklyn Nets will have the Nos. 21, 22, and 51 overall picks in the 2023 NBA Draft but their scope of prospects has been a lot wider than that.

They have entertained a slew of later-round and undrafted prospects in recent weeks.

And, in the days and weeks to come, that approach is set to continue with one of the more polarizing prospects in this year’s class, Eastern Michigan forward Emoni Bates who was deemed a “prodigy” and “next in line” by Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated in 2019.

“Bates is at the draft combine meeting with teams as a projected second-round pick selling teams on his potential, which once made him the nation’s top-ranked recruit,” wrote Alex Schiffer of The Athletic on May 19. “He’s been linked to the Nets…and said he will work out for them in the coming weeks.”

Bates averaged 19.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists while shooting 40.5% from the floor, 33% from beyond the arc, and 78.2% at the free throw line.

But his story took plenty of twists and turns since he got his first Sports Illustrated cover at 15.

The 6-foot-9 forward has drawn praise from Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James and compares himself to Kevin Durant in meetings with teams, per Schiffer. But Bates’ collegiate career began at the University of Memphis amid controversy over potential pay-to-play violations, as detailed by Kent Sterling of Kent

A back injury cut his freshman season short and Bates would eventually transfer from Memphis, moving closer to home (Ypsilanti, Michigan) at Eastern Michigan.

There, Bates was suspended for two months by EMU after being charged with two felony gun charges – one for “carrying a concealed weapon” and the other for “altering the identity of a firearm,” per Greg Wickliffe of Mass Live – and receiving an 18-month probation sentence.

He pleaded down the charges to a misdemeanor and was reinstated by the school in October.

Emoni Bates’ Past Impacting His Future

Bates’ record can be expunged upon completion of his probation. But the damage by his actions – and thanks to some recent incidents involving Memphis Grizzlies star point guard Ja Morant who has been suspended twice by the team for flashing guns in social media videos – has already been done.

“Bates will probably be an early-to-mid 2nd pick,” one scout said, per Adam Zagoria of Forbes on May 20. “Tons of talent. Off-the-court issues have killed his positioning.

“Nobody is gonna put up with Ja Morant issues unless you are a special player.”

Zagoria also notes that the Nets – along with the Charlotte Hornets – are a team to “keep in mind” for Bates with general manager Sean Marks in attendance at the combine where Bates impressed during workouts.

“Bates showed flashes of the shot-making along with flashes of being able to handle the ball and move it around,” wrote Jamie Shaw of On3 on May 18. “ Bates has a lot of natural tools…All-in-all, Bates has next-level talent, and that is the takeaway from the NBA Draft Combine.”

“I think that Emoni did a good job this week,” said ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony, per Zagoria. “I’m not sure that he’s guaranteed to hear his name called. But…NBA teams are going to kick the tires on [him], and he showed glimpses of his talent this week.”

Bates is projected as the No. 58 overall pick, per Tankathon.

That is last in this year’s cycle with the Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers each surrendering a second-round pick for tampering violations.

Nets Met with Former National Champion

Among the slew of other players who either already have or will work out for the Nets so far this offseason – Schiffer has noted Jett Howard, son of former NBA big man Juwan Howard, as well as DaRon Holmes II of Dayton and Jalen Wilson of Kansas – Jordan Hawkins stands out.

The former UConn star is fresh off an impressive postseason run that saw him average 16.3 points on 66.3% true shooting while knocking down 50% of his threes. Hawkins capped off his impressive showing by leading the Huskies to a championship this past season as a sophomore.

The 6-foot-5 Hawkins is projected to be a lottery pick, per Tankathon.

Brooklyn has also met or will meet with Howard’s Michigan teammate Kobie Bufkin and Duke big man Derek Lively II, among others.

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