© 2024 ALLCITY Network Inc.
All rights reserved.
Justin Lewis was projected to be a mid-to-high 2nd-round pick. The sophomore forward from Marquette University was even mocked in the back-end of the first round. Instead, he spent draft night in the Barclays center and never heard his name called.
“I was at the Barclays with my family,” Lewis said. “Not the green room. A suite. Hell yeah, I was sad. Upset. Frustrated. But I got this opportunity now and the guys that got drafted got the same opportunity. So I feel like we’re back on ground zero.”
He got the call from the Bulls before leaving Barclays, and now he’s got his chance.
“That night was all I needed,” he said. “I don’t need any more fuel in my fire. I just reflect on that night and how it went.”
Coming from a long lineage of tough Marquette players like Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder and Wes Matthews, Lewis has a real opportunity to fill a need for the Bulls. He’s 6’7″ with a 7’2″ wingspan and that #dawgmentality. Every team in the league is seeking the next five-position big-wing defender who can dribble, pass and shoot. Lewis might be that guy for the Bulls.
“It’s just the culture at Marquette,” Lewis said. “The things they emphasize and how hard we work. Just seeing the guys before you, seeing how hard they’re working, what they went through and how they’re dogs.”
That’s Lewis in a nutshell.
He has a projectable shot and defensive versatility. He can guard up and fight with and defend guards in space on switches.
Lewis didn’t put up big numbers in his first game. He scored eight points on nine shots and only grabbed five rebounds. He’s a work in progress to be sure, but his skill set is perfect for the modern game.
“Being able to read closeouts, transition, open cuts, things like that,” he said. “Knocking down corner shots, open threes.”
He shot 35 percent on 5.2 attempts per game from three in college and despite going 0/2 in game one, was unafraid to get his shot off.
“I’m very comfortable with my shot,” Lewis said. “I went 0/2 in my first game, it’s just the first game, got my feet wet. My three-point is something. I’m always going to continue to work on. Just the reps, consistency.”
Shooting is going to be the swing skill for Lewis early on in his career. Typically, Summer League is an opportunity to test the limits of young players’ games, and the Bulls didn’t really put the ball in Lewis’ hands. Instead they challenged him on the defensive end to guard multiple positions, read the game from the weak side and make like difficult for whoever he was guarding.
Defensively, Lewis had reps switching onto Jaden Hardy, picked off a pass to run the break and contests shots on the perimeter and at the rim.
Lewis is built to be a star role player. He’s even got some upside to do more. He wants to emulate PJ Tucker and Crowder and that player is the biggest area of need on the Bulls roster.
Patrick Williams is the only true big wing on the roster. Lewis has a chance to progress through the Bulls program and even vie for a major league deal. He’s also got some nasty to his game, which compliments the reserved nature of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic.
Lewis needs to become a most consistent shooter, develop his offensive skillset and continue on his trajectory towards becoming a multi-positional defender. But his tools and skill set are undeniable, and they compliment anyone around him.
Taking a swing on an undrafted player is hardly a headline catching move, but Lewis could be the next margin home run for Arturas Karnisovas and company.
The Bulls have a chance to mold Lewis into a player every team covets. And the early returns are promising.
Get Chicago's Best Sports Content In Your Inbox!
Become a smarter Chicago sports fan with the latest game recaps, analysis and exclusive content from CHGO’s writers and podcasters!
Just drop your email below!