In part one of examining Emoni Bates’ freshman year at Memphis, we delved into his shot mechanics and circumstances that factored into potentially shaking his confidence. Shot selection was a big piece to the strengths and struggle that Bates faced at Memphis, notably the types of shots he was taking and how he was getting them. In the second of two-parts examining Bates, let’s explore his shot selection tracking data and what we can learn from its impact on his game moving forward.
In the latest edition of ‘P.I. Pulse’, Pro Insight contributor Bjorn Zetterberg continues ‘Data Tracking,’ a new series that explores some of the nitty-gritty nuances surrounding different groups of NBA Draft prospects. Finishing up part-two of this examination: Emoni Bates.
Despite playing only 18 games last year, not quite a full season sample size but enough to infer on, Emoni Bates put a lot on display. The good flashes of considerable natural talent and shot making ability, a self-confidence in himself that, at times, bypassed defensive contests and could allow him to get hot from the field. The bad resulted in what Jeff Van Gundy has coined a “shooting turnover,” an ill-advised and pressured shot attempt taken early in the shot clock — equivalent to a giveaway possession. The ugly was trying to do too much himself which resulted in poor shot choices, forcing action at the rim, or jacking up an unnecessarily tough, low-percentage look from the perimeter. Bates attempted 152 non-heave shot attempts throughout the season, and after watching them all, there are some things that stand out.
While capable of getting to the basket, Bates is predominantly a jump shooter based on what he showed, as two-thirds of his total shots were perimeter looks this season. He can play with an edge as a trash talker who likes to get in the face of his opponent after a tough make and he can be demonstrative to get himself going (just watch his reactions after some of the makes in the clips). Emoni looked his best playing off the pass and attacking closeouts, as he can generate his own shots off the dribble, too, sometimes in impressive fashion. Approximately 40% of his shots came ‘after the pass’ and he was efficient this way, converting 60 points on 60 plays (1 Point per Play). Coincidentally, 40% of his shots came as above the break 3s where he hit 32%, and shot similarly from the corner, with his 3FG sitting at 33%. He had a three-point attempt rate near 50% this season, a high rate for an NCAA wing. Curiously, his percentages spotting up versus pulling up off the dribble from above the break were negligible in terms of efficiency with similar volume. He was best on ‘no dribble’ or ‘3+’ dribble possessions (0.97 Points Per Possession) which accounted for three-fourths of his field goal attempts, but when attempting ‘1’ or ‘2’ dribble shots, he was at only 0.87 PPP efficiency. Honing his shot fake off the catch to get into a quick 1-2 dribble midrange pull-up can use work, but is an area of opportunity for him.
In the halfcourt, Emoni flashed a distinctive and refined offensive arsenal from the mid-post when operating one-on-one, showing a knack for scoring in iso and post-up situations with 18 points in 19 situations (0.95 PPP). He’s not super shifty, but has a nice handle and quick crossover, allowing him to create space on his own pull-ups and hit contested NBA-type shots from midrange off the dribble. He is comfortable with his fall-away jumper and has the size to get it off over defenders. While a fine athlete, Emoni doesn’t have explosiveness to beat his man routinely and can become reliant on his pull up jumper.
While midrange attempts only accounted for 15% of his total shot profile, Bates liked to live in that area in the halfcourt, but was inefficient with 14 points on 23 FGA (0.61 PPP). His pick-and-roll plays (17% of his offense usage) were a struggle. He produced only 13 points on 26 on-ball screen plays, resulting in shots from him (0.5 PPP) where his proclivity to pull-up showed up, as he did so half the time. He wasn’t great as a halfcourt finisher at the rim either this past season, making only 40% of his attempts at the basket on 10 of 25 FGAs, a low rate.
Memphis played at a fast pace and Emoni got a number of clean looks in transition just by getting back, as he went 14/39 from three-point range in catch-and-shoot situations (36%). The transition pull up threes were one of his favorite shots, but troublesome as one of his more prevalent looks in early to mid-season. Emoni would rush the ball up court without a numbers advantage to take a quick, contested 3FGA. Fortunately, he made 5 of 10 looks in these cases, but the misses were glaring and odds are this shot type regresses to the mean over the course of a full season.
Bates was a good transition scorer, recording 35 points on 22 plays (1.59 PPP) in the open floor, suggesting his game could be better with pace and space. He forced some action to the basket on drives, resulting in some shoddy floaters taken through contact and heavy pressure, and some iffy hanging scoop shots. His floater game is a notable area of improvement for him, as he shot only 5 of 16 (31%) on these types of shots in 2021-22.
Emoni Bates got a lot of comparisons to Kevin Durant early in his high school career, and those clearly weren’t fair. Tempering expectations and based on what he showed at Memphis, a high-end outcome for his talent, if everything goes right, seems more reasonably to be a Khris Middleton-type game. He’s capable of being a tough shot maker in the half court, but 11 of 32 shooting (34%) on heavy pressure doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence with 0.75 PPP. About 63% of shots (96 of 152) were lightly contested and he was OK converting on those looks at 0.97 PPP. He wasn’t quite a ‘one and done,’ but at his young age, Bates could take a big leap in his sophomore season at Eastern Michigan and take on a potentially different role if he handles point more and commands a high usage rate. He has pro tools and outlier talent, but development and coaching are going to be crucial ingredients in getting him to the next level and maximizing his potential.
Bjorn has worked in the NBA for about a decade as an Associate Analyst with the Orlando Magic, Video Analyst Manager for the Portland Trail Blazers and Advance Scout for the Idaho Stampede. You can follow him on twitter @bjornzetterberg and reach him by email at email@example.com.