Emoni Bates will not be eligible for the NBA Draft until 2023, he is currently a high school junior.
Yet he is already a name NBA fans should get to know — he is the most hyped basketball prospect since LeBron James. Bates a 6’9″ ball-handling wing with a sweet stroke — his three-point shot may already be NBA ready, according to one scout I spoke with — and he has a game that often gets compared to Kevin Durant. Being compared to LeBron and KD before your junior Prom is an unfair amount of pressure, but that’s how good many think Bates will be. A generational talent.
Last June, Bates committed to Michigan State. This week, he decommited from the Spartans.
It has long been suspected in basketball circles that rather than going to college, Bates would follow the path of likely top-five picks this year Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga and join the NBA’s G-League Ignite team. There he would play against with and against pros. Bates has a lot of options, however.
How good can Bates be? In the summer of 2019, we here at NBC put together a “50 best in five years” list of players, thinking ahead to the summer of 2024. At that point we put Bates, just a high school freshman who would have played one season of NBA ball, in our top 50. Here is what Rob Dauster wrote about him at the time:
“I understand that putting “Emoni Bates” and “Kevin Durant” in the same sentence – whether it is on this site, on Twitter, on TV, wherever – is putting a significant amount of pressure on this kid. He’s also the best prospect that many of the smartest people in grassroots basketball have ever seen, or have seen in a long, long time. As one former NBA player put it to me, “[those guys] are going to be good. He’s good now.”
“There are two reasons I’m buying Emoni, so long as he stays healthy, coming close to reaching his ceiling. For starters, his father, Elgin, seems to be smart, grounded and completely cognizant of what his son is going to have to deal with in the very near future. “Don’t let this go to his head or bother him due to the fact that it can get overwhelming and crazy,” Elgin told me in July…
The other reason is that Emoni has some killer in him. He’s uber-competitive. He’ll throw an elbow if someone is getting too physical. He’ll run his mouth after burying yet another step-back three in someone’s eye. He wants to win more than anything, regardless of whether he is playing a meaningless pickup game or a knockout-round game at Peach Jam. And that, more than just his physical tools and skill set, is what reminds the smartest basketball minds of KD.”
There’s a long road to go between here and there, but it looks like that road heads through the G-League, not Lansing.