Bulls’ Impressive Rookie Could Miss Out On Contract

Justin Lewis, Chicago Bulls

Getty Justin Lewis #10 dribbles the ball.

The Chicago Bulls completed another phase of their potential future attempts to recruit Giannis Antetokounmpo signing his brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo, to a training camp deal on September 18, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

Charania reported Antetokounmpo will compete for one of their two-way contract slots.

This caused some confusion since the Bulls just signed Malcolm Hill to a similar contract on September 7, thought to be their second such deal.

They also still had rookie Justin Lewis on such a pact which would mean three two-way contracts, one over the limit. But one Bulls insider provided some added context to the move that could reveal Lewis’ status as he battles his way back from a torn ACL suffered during an independent workout.

Justin Lewis’ Roster Spot Safe?

Lewis tore his ACL on August 6. He sent a message out to his supporters from his post-suregery hospital bed via Instagram on August 31. With Lewis sidelined for the year, there was already some speculation that the Bulls would waive him, opting to use the spot on a healthy player.

But NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson reports that Antetokounmpo will compete with three players for a two-way contract.

That Hill was listed in that competition for the “other” two-way slot and not Lewis would seem to indicate the team remains high enough on the 21-year-old not to expose him to another team by waiving him even with an injury designation, though, that could still come later.

Lewis was deemed not ready for a major role but was considered one of the top undrafted prospects after a productive sophomore season at Marquette.

He flashed in summer league play as well before suffering the injury.

Interesting 2-Way Battle

The three players battling it out for the final two-way slot are very different and all could bring value to the team. But, when taking the Bulls’ roster composition into account, there is a clear direction they might want to lean.

Carlik Jones fits the mold of a true point guard in build. But he is a second-year pro with just five games of NBA experience under his belt.

Hill, a wing, shot 36.1% from beyond the arc as a rookie last season but just 32% with the Bulls.

But Antetokounmpo could offer much of what they hoped to see from Lewis as a rookie. And he already has a fan in Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arutras Karnisovas who went and saw him play in a FIBA qualifying match with Greece.

The Bulls also hired Nikolaos Pappas, who worked as the sports director for the Greek men’s national team, to be an international scout.

All of this and his brother would seem to point towards Antetokounmpo being their preference.

Bulls Stockpiling Length

One interesting note of Karnisovas’ tenure is his growing collection of forwards boasting 7-foot wingspans. Antetokounmpo joins Lewis (when healthy), rookie Dalen Terry, and third-year man Patrick Williams in that group.

That is currently the thinnest part of the roster.

If Antetokounmpo – who won a championship in 2020 with Bulls guard Alex Caruso and the Los Angeles Lakers – impresses, he could turn it into a strength.

There is also the potential added bonus of having a bug in Giannis’ ear, even if the Bulls landing him is as long of a shot as there is. They have to look at everything as Karnisovas said during his exit interview and, it appears that they are.

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