Through three games of Summer League action so far, the biggest story for the Chicago Bulls in Las Vegas has without a doubt been the emergence of Javon Freeman-Liberty. Looking every part of the assertive playmaker and versatile scoring guard this team has needed for so long, I can’t say I’m surprised to see JFL capture the hearts of so many fans so quickly.
Averaging 21.3 points, 5 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per contest, Freeman-Liberty has been the clear-cut best player on this roster thus far. His impact on these games has been impossible to ignore, as he’s displayed stout defense, hustled to create easy scoring opportunities, and shot a sweet 46.7% from deep (on 5 attempts per game) to stretch the floor and make his teammates’ jobs even easier.
As a result, the Bulls have jumped out to a 2-1 record and sit in 8th place in the Summer League standings. Under his leadership, Chicago has a very real chance of qualifying for the Summer League playoffs and hoisting their first championship since 2016.
If you’ve been following Javon for a while now, you’d know this is nothing out of the ordinary for him. In fact, he was one of the most accomplished scoring and playmaking threats on the Bulls’ G League affiliate last season. At every level he’s ever played, he’s proven to be a dynamic difference maker that can light up the scoreboard, like when he dropped 39 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists on the Cleveland Charge last season.
Javon Freeman-Liberty has been a massive bright spot for the Bulls in the Summer League thus far.
The main obstacle preventing JFL from earning a spot on the main roster has nothing to do with his actual on-court performance, but rather the logjam of backcourt talent on the Bulls at the moment. Even if Chicago wanted to offer a full roster spot, there may simply not be enough minutes to go around.
As it currently stands, here’s how the Bulls’ backcourt rotation is shaping up (ranked according to projected minutes played):
- Zach LaVine
- Jevon Carter
- Coby White
- Alex Caruso
- Ayo Dosunmu (restricted free agent)
- Carlik Jones (unguaranteed for 2023-24)
- Dalen Terry
For that reason, I believe bringing JFL into an environment where he wouldn’t find much on-court time could be a net negative signing for Chicago. As much as I believe the Bulls should retain Freeman-Liberty in their system, signing him to a contract with the main roster may actually end up being detrimental to his development.
Instead, I think looking at a two-way deal makes much more sense for both parties. Since the NBA added a third two-way contract spot for this season, the Bulls will have more flexibility than ever to invest in promising young talent like JFL while remaining competitive and keeping roster spaces open for veteran talent. Currently, Adama Sanogo is the only player signed to a two-way deal with the Bulls, while Terry Taylor, Justin Lewis, and now Freeman-Liberty are expected to compete for the final two remaining spots.
It should also be pointed out that if the Bulls do in fact bring Ayo Dosunmu back for another year and allow Carlik Jones’ contract to be locked in for next season, Chicago will only have two remaining full-time roster spots left to utilize. With only two centers on the roster and either Dalen Terry or Julian Phillips primed to see heavy minutes as a primary reserve forward, it’s clear to see that this team has other priorities that need addressing.
On a two-way contract, JFL would still be allowed up to 50 days in the NBA, providing him ample time to get some experience with the main squad. In the event of an injury, he’d be a great temporary replacement to the bench depth. But above all else, the Bulls must learn from their past lessons with Spencer Dinwiddie and Max Strus. Allowing another team to sign a promising guard like Freeman-Liberty from Chicago’s own farm system would be an enormous mistake.