The Los Angeles Lakers have two picks in the 2023 NBA Draft at Nos. 17 and 47. The first Lakers draft pick will be a well-known player who will be expected to contribute right away in the 2023-24 season. The second pick will be a sleeper the franchise must target in order to get the most bang for their buck in Round 2. That’s why an Emoni Bates Lakers selection would make a ton of sense and pick No. 47.

Eastern Michigan’s Emoni Bates is the 2023 NBA Draft sleeper the Lakers need to target

Eastern Michigan guard/forward Emoni Bates is the sleeper the Lakers should target at pick No. 47 in the second round of the 2023 NBA Draft.

While most NBA fans aren’t up on mid-second-round picks or Eastern Michigan prospects, the name Emoni Bates may still sound familiar to you.

Bates was supposed to be part of the 2022 recruiting class but reclassified after his junior season to head to college in 2021. Even coming out of high school in Ypsilanti, Michigan a year early, Bates was still the No. 3 recruit in the country, per ESPN, ahead of Paolo Banchero, Jabari Smith, Jalen Duren, and plenty of other current NBA players, 2023 NBA Draft prospects, and current college basketball stars.

Bates eventually chose Memphis and Penny Hardaway for his college basketball after turning down Duke and de-committing from Michigan State. However, as a 17-year-old, his freshman season did not go well. Thanks to a few nagging injuries and Hardaway playing the 6-foot-8 teenager at point guard (not his true position), Bates fell in the 2022 NBA Draft projections.

To bump those projections back up, Bates transferred to his hometown Easter Michigan for his sophomore season. His numbers improved (19.2 points, 1.4 assists, 5.8 rebounds per game), but the prospect was arrested at the beginning of the season on a gun charge. Bates ultimately pled that down to a misdemeanor.

Gun charge and funky college experience aside, Bates has other problems as a prospect. He isn’t an explosive athlete and has a negative wingspan (6-foot-8 ½ height, 6-foot-7 ½ wingspan). He is also a high-volume and inefficient scorer at times who shot 47.4% from 2-point range, 33.0% from deep, and 78.2% from the free throw line.

Emoni Bates was once a great prospect, but his lack of elite production and development has stunted his NBA status, which is why he is dropping into the second round of the NBA draft. However, at that point, an Emoni Bates Lakers pairing makes a lot of sense.

The Lakers need guards and wings in this draft, whether it is to replace losing free agents D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, and Rui Hachimura or just to add to this collection and give the squad more firepower and versatility off the bench.

Bates has the size, skill, and shooting ability to be an elite scorer. And when he’s not the primary focus of the offense, his scoring may even improve at the next level. He’s also an excellent ball-handler and should be able to take over those duties on a second unit when necessary.

Overall, Emoni Bates looks like a bench scorer at the next level right now, but there is still at least some of that high-level talent in him that scouts saw in high school. He had a rocky road at the start of his college career, but now as a pro player who can just work on his game from here on out, there is a bit of a lottery ticket feel for Bates.

And no one knows the path Bates traveled better than LeBron James. Bates was one of the jewels of the Class of 2021, in a similar (but still nowhere close) fashion to what LeBron dealt with as a prep player and NBA draft prospect.

If James can take Bates under his wing and show the young player what he can do to unlock that high-ceiling potential it once seemed like he had, the rookie could eventually develop into a starter or even a star if he gets his groove back.

In this draft, the Lakers need to strike a balance between players who can help right now and ones that may be able to take the mantle in the future as James and Anthony Davis reach the end of their Lakers tenure. It’s no sure thing that an Emoni Bates Lakers pick brings in a player who will definitely do this, but when you look at the rest of the prospects who will likely be available at pick No. 47, there aren’t any who have the pedigree that Bates does.