Former top 2023 NBA Draft prospect could slip to Bulls this summer

Emoni Bates, 2023 NBA Draft Prospects, Chicago Bulls Draft targets (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
Emoni Bates, 2023 NBA Draft Prospects, Chicago Bulls Draft targets (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Bulls may not own the rights to any of their upcoming picks this year, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t avenues to improve via the 2023 NBA Draft. Whether that means the Bulls luck out in the lottery, trade cash or assets for a pick, or swoop in to secure a top undrafted player, there are always options on the board here.

Among the most interesting opportunities worth pouncing on is Eastern Michigan’s Emoni Bates, who has seen his draft stock take a wild rollercoaster ride full of ups and downs since he first caught the nation’s attention in high school. After a disappointing freshman season at Memphis, Bates would not join teammates Jalen Duren and Josh Minott at the 2022 NBA Draft, instead opting to return home to Eastern Michigan to repair his draft stock.

Whether he succeeded in that endeavor, well, it depends on who you ask. On one hand, Bates significantly improved his box score statistics and shooting splits, as seen below:

  • Bates in 2021-22: 9.7 PTS, 3.3 REB, 1.3 AST, 38.6 FG%, 32.9 3P%, 64.6 FT%
  • Bates in 2022-23: 19.2 PTS, 5.8 REB, 1.4 AST, 40.5 FG%, 33 3P%, 78.2 FT%

On the other hand, it’s still quite concerning that Bates didn’t look entirely dominant against significantly weaker competition. The fact that Eastern Michigan stumbled to a terrible 8-23 record and tied for the second-worst finish in the MAC.

Although Emoni Bates failed to repair his draft stock this season, this may have opened an opportunity for the Chicago Bulls to swoop in.

If we’re speaking truthfully here, if not for his disappointing collegiate performance, Bates is a player who would never have even been in reasonable drafting range for the Chicago Bulls regardless. After all, he was formerly the No. 1 recruit in ESPN’s 100 for 2022, before reclassifying to 2021 and slipping to No. 3 behind Chet Holmgren and Jaden Hardy.

Although he struggled to consistently take over games and lead Eastern Michigan to victories, it was reassuring to see Emoni step up when the brights were lightest. In the season opener against Michigan, he dropped 30 points on 63.2% from the field. Up against a historic SEC program in the SEC, Bates let it rain for 36 points while shooting 5-for-10 from beyond the arc. Taking on the eventual MAC champion Toledo, Emoni once again put on a superstar showing with 43 points (including 29 consecutive points) on 15-for-23 shooting from the field.

There is clearly star potential here, it’s just a matter of coaxing it out of Bates on a consistent basis.

Last year, we saw the aforementioned Jaden Hardy slip from being a projected top-3 pick all the way down to the 37th pick in the second round, simply because he struggled to remain efficient in his one year of G League play as the de facto leader of the Ignite program.  As we saw in the end, Hardy’s raw talent prevailed and he ended up being one of the most effective rookies in 2022-23, leaving many Dallas fans wanting a larger role for the guard moving forward.

I don’t think it’s unrealistic in the slightest to expect a similar bounceback from a player like Bates. Even if their first-round pick conveys to the Magic at the draft lottery, the Bulls could still acquire a high-ceiling player in Bates if they move for a second-round selection or aggressively pursue him as an undrafted free agent.

In their latest mock drafts, NBA Draft Room has Bates taken at the No. 48 spot, USA Today has him going 49th, while and Bleacher Report have Bates going undrafted. It’s hard to say how things will play out this far in advance, but one thing is for certain — the Chicago Bulls must remain vigilant if they wish to make a dramatic improvement this summer and avoid sharing the same fate as they did in 2022-23.

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