Under the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement, teams now have three two-way slots instead of two. The Cleveland Cavaliers have already filled all three spots.
Per an announcement from the team, the Cavs have signed second-round pick Emoni Bates, 2022 second-round pick (and a two-way signee last season) Isaiah Mobley and underafted free agent Craig Porter Jr.
Bates, the 19-year-old former prep phenom, is the most intriguing of the three. At point in his prep career, he was the No. 1 prospect of the country. But the last two years have been challenging for Bates, with his one season at Memphis featuring Bates struggling to play point guard and adapt to the college game after reclassifying to enter college a year early. After leaving Memphis, he transferred to Eastern Michigan in his native Michigan. Last season with the Eagles, Bates averaged 19.2 points per game while shooting 40.5% from the field and 33% from three.
Spending time with the Cleveland Charge in the G League feels like the right move for Bates. He’s still only 19 despite being in the spotlight for so long. He needs game time to work on his game in a live setting — something that wouldn’t be possible if he were signed to a regular NBA contract.
“I’ve been playing basketball since I was young,” Bates said recently after a Cavs summer league practice. “It’s been my dream for a long time. For me to actually be here, it’s still feeling unreal. Some days it’s like, ‘Wow, I’m in the NBA.’ It’s still shocking. But I feel like as I keep going through the process, I will get more comfortable. I’m not trying to really think too far ahead. I’m in this present moment right now and my main thing is just getting better every day. One step at a time. I don’t want to think too far you know what I mean? I’ve got to get better each day. It’s each step. It don’t happen overnight.”
Mobley, the elder brother of Cavs star big man Evan Mobley, was a standout with the Charge last season. In 22 games, he averaged 21 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4 assists per game. He finished his rookie season in the G League shooting 51.7% from field and 35.3% from three. He showed a real feel for the game from the center position, showing some passing and shooting ability that make him an interesting center prospect.
It is worth noting that Mobley being on another two-way deal perhaps says something about where Cleveland thinks he’s at in his development. Last year’s backup center, Robin Lopez, walked in free agency. To replace him, the Cavs acquired 28-year-old Damian Jones in a trade with the Utah Jazz. Jones is more proven — he’s been in the league since 2016 and won two titles with the Golden State Warriors. Mobley, who turns 24 in September, isn’t as proven an option for a team that want to win now. But, if there are injuries at center, Mobley could conceivably get called into service. Of Cleveland’s three two-way players, he is the likeliest one to play a role for the 2023-24 Cavs.
Porter Jr., meanwhile, is a former JUCO
Under the new CBA, two-way players can be active for as many as 50 NBA games. (Under the older CBA, they could be active for 45.) Their salary is also different than it was under the old CBA where it was a complex formula based on NBA service time. Now, they will make half of the rookie minimum salary. For the 2023-24 season, this means Bates, Mobley and Porter Jr. will each make roughly $550,000.