Bulls Rookie Ranked Among Summer League’s Best

Justin Lewis, Chicago Bulls

Getty Justin Lewis #10 of the Marquette Golden Eagles reacts after a basket

The Chicago Bulls have one of the top rookies to keep an eye on in Las Vegas Summer League play which began on July 5. We will not get to do that until the Bulls begin play on July 8. But the anticipation is surprisingly growing.

We have already heard the reviews from Summer League practices and acting head coach John Bryant, via NBC Sports Chicago’s Rob Schaefer.

With the 18th-overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Bulls selected Dalen Terry out of Arizona, a multi-positional defender and playmaker. Terry’s selection brought about some consternation as the Bulls bypassed what some felt were more pressing needs.

But it’s not Terry that Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman highlighted. It’s undrafted rookie Justin Lewis whom the Bulls signed immediately following the draft.

Better Late Than Never

Lewis, who ranked third on Wasserman’s list, is a 6-foot-7 forward from Marquette University. That is just over 90 minutes away from the United Center where he hopes to play professionally. Unfortunately for Lewis, his name was not called on draft night.

That could end up being to his benefit, though, as he landed in a spot that could use someone of his skill set, as Wasserman explains.

“Lewis’ improved shooting wasn’t enough to win over NBA teams. It will give him a chance with the Chicago Bulls, who have room to upgrade their frontcourt depth. A 235-pound frame and 7’2½” wingspan still separate Lewis from most wings or forwards.”

His build certainly sets him apart on the Bulls where he is one of just five players on the current 15-man roster standing above 6-foot-6.

Only three Bulls players would weigh more than he is listed. All three are centers.

That frame could allow Lewis to develop into a small-ball center; big enough to man the paint but also quick enough to guard the perimeter.

It is a role some envision for Patrick Williams. But, as Williams heads into his third year, we have yet to see that come to fruition due to injuries. Lewis’ arrival means that all of those hopes to modernize the roster don’t have to solely rest on Williams’ shoulders.

Slow Progress is Better Than No Progress

Williams’ development is one of the keys to the Bulls having a successful season along with improved health. But, in Lewis, the Bulls might have someone better suited to fill the more physical roles than Williams.

As Wasserman notes, he thrived in moments when the game got physical.

“[Lewis’ frame] served him best playing through contact downhill, particularly in transition. But Lewis went from making 11 half-court jumpers as a true freshman to 71 this past season. Though he struggled in creation situations, he had encouraging success spotting up—catch-and-shooting, driving past closeouts, and hitting one-dribble pull-ups.”

Lewis’ aggressive style figures to play well on a team that emphasized the energy Terry will bring to their group. Lewis is in a similar mold and also exudes the kind of confidence often found in more highly-touted prospects.

It is a trait that has eluded Williams to this point with the forward noting it as a focus for the second consecutive offseason.

The hope should be for Lewis and Terry to bring energy as Ayo Dosunmu did.

Taken with the 38th-overall selection last June, Dosunmu wound up starting the most games on the team and earning All-Rookie honors.

Finding His Niche

Lewis won’t have that kind of role barring a rash of injuries, just as Dosunmu came into his opportunity. He certainly has the skill set to contribute on any given night even if it is just to eat up minutes.

But he’ll have to earn it.

He steps into a group with aspirations of title contention. Despite his skill set, there won’t be many minutes available unless he makes it impossible to keep him off the floor.

“His role for Chicago would be defined and limited to spotting up and finishing fast-break buckets. Earning a regular role will come down to Lewis’ defense, which wasn’t as effective as his tools suggest it could have been. Physically, he is built incredibly similar to Jae Crowder (6’6″, 235 lbs). Improving his defensive reads and concentration could ultimately be Lewis’ swing skills.”

The importance of two-way players was brought up during Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas’ exit interview.

While the Bulls architect kept his response mostly broad saying they would “look at everything”, his track record with unearthing value from lesser-known prospects is strong. Karnisovas was not the man who drafted Nikola Jokic, the reigning MVP who just signed the richest contract in NBA history.

He was, however, a part of the front office that did.

In Due Time

There is a large gap to go from undrafted signee to being a league MVP and getting a lucrative contract. The gap is filled with many a forgotten player. But the Bulls are still trying to fill out a roster just two years into the current core group.

Lewis’ spot in that group has yet to be determined. But he has the tools to be a valuable player for years.

Justin Lewis Signs With Chicago Bulls: Scouting Report | Pro Comp, Strengths & Weaknesses | CBS S…Player profile for Justin Lewis, who signed with the Chicago Bulls. SUBSCRIBE TO OUR CHANNEL: youtube.com/user/CBSSportsHQ WATCH CBS Sports HQ: cbssports.com/live/ Paramount Plus: paramountplus.com FOLLOW US ON: Facebook – facebook.com/CBSSports/ Instagram – instagram.com/cbssportshq/ Twitter – twitter.com/CBSSportsHQ #NBA #NBADraft #NBANews2022-06-25T00:36:28Z

It is up to the Bulls to unlock as much of that as they can in Summer League. They surely hope they won’t have a use for Lewis during the regular season. That makes his time in Las Vegas that much more significant.

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