Bulls offer final two-way contract to unexpected player

Arturas Karnisovas, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Arturas Karnisovas, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) /

As the Chicago Bulls continually attempt to improve their roster at the margins (while not so sneakily remaining under the luxury tax threshold), every signing they make takes on increased importance, no matter how small. So when the Bulls reportedly signed Justin Lewis under the radar to a two-way contract, I must say they managed to pique my interest.

Touted as the NBA’s best undrafted free agent just one season ago, a great many fans were excited to see Lewis in a Bulls uniform. Unfortunately, an ACL injury would cut his time short as he’d miss the entirety of the regular season.

The 2023 NBA Summer League was our first chance to see Lewis back in action post-injury, and the results were… not very inspiring, to say the least. While some other players grabbed this opportunity by the horns and impressed in a big way, Lewis only played 28 minutes across two separate games, averaging a paltry 4.5 points and 4 rebounds per game.

Cody Westerlund of 670 The Score and CHGO’s Will Gottlieb each offer nonconflicting reports that the Bulls have brought Lewis back on a two-way deal once more, thus once more narrowing the field of available roster spots.

As happy as I am to see Justin Lewis back on the Bulls, this signing has big ramifications for a fan favorite.

Despite Lewis showing a fair amount of promise, this news may come as a surprise to fans who were expecting Chicago to sign someone else. That player, of course, is Javon Freeman-Liberty. After dominating the G League last season and looking like one of the best players in the entire Summer League this year, many were holding out hope that the Bulls would offer a deal to Freeman-Liberty.

After averaging 21.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 4.4 assists on 46.2% shooting from deep across the five-game Summer League circuit, JFL will almost certainly receive an All-Summer League Team nomination. He was so dominant in these exhibition games that many, myself included, believed he was a shoo-in for the Bulls’ final two-way roster spot.

Here’s where things get interesting. The NBA has expanded the number of two-way contracts each team can have on the roster to three for this upcoming season. Undrafted free agent Adama Sanogo was the first to occupy one of these spots, while this recent update from Lewis suggests two of the three spots have already been filled. As for the third and final spot, Terry Taylor has already received a one-year qualifying offer for the position.

If the Bulls wish to sign Freeman-Liberty, they must now do one of two things:

  1. Rescind their offer to Terry Taylor, or
  2. Offer Freeman-Liberty a spot on the main roster

Considering Taylor was by far the Bulls’ best two-way player last season, I don’t see them willing to give up on the versatile young talent so easily. On the other hand, Chicago already has a wealth of guards on the roster with a far more immediate need to address the depth at the forward and center positions. With only two roster spots left, it’s far more difficult to justify signing Freeman-Liberty to the main roster.

This is why bringing Freeman-Liberty back on a two-way contract seemed to make the most sense, but now the Bulls are in danger of losing out on yet another promising young talent if they don’t act fast.

Next. Dalen Terry redeems himself in Summer League victory. dark