After bringing Coby White and Nikola Vucevic back on reasonable deals, adding very good role players in Jevon Carter and Torrey Craig for practically nothing, and trading up for the 35th pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, things had been going relatively perfectly for the Chicago Bulls this summer. The good times couldn’t last forever, however, as the Bulls have committed their first blunder of the offseason by letting Javon Freeman-Liberty leave in free agency.
This news comes as a big shock to dedicated Bulls fans, as Freeman-Liberty won our hearts over with his impressive play in Las Vegas. Averaging 21.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game in the Summer League, JFL’s sharpshooting and well-rounded play earned him All-Summer League Second Team honors and attracted several suitors for his services.
Considering he’s already from Chicago and they were the first to give him a chance, many assumed the Bulls would get first pickings on the promising guard. As it turns out, Freeman-Liberty will be wearing a Toronto Raptors jersey next season instead.
Javon Freeman-Liberty was one of very few promising prospects in the Bulls’ developmental pipeline.
What’s particularly shocking here, is that among the three reported teams who offered Freeman-Liberty a deal, the Bulls weren’t even among them. Despite his excellence in the Summer League, Chicago’s front office snubbed a proven player in JFL to pursue their own vision for the roster.
This indicates the front office prioritized the signing of Justin Lewis and Onuralp Bitim over JFL, which is certainly a move that deserves to be scrutinized. The Bulls’ third two-way spot was filled by Adama Sanogo before the Summer League even took place, so we can’t fault them there at least. Besides, Sanogo played more than well enough to warrant his spot.
As for Lewis and Bitim, I’m not so sure. In both stints with Chicago’s Summer League team, Lewis has failed to make really any sort of impact on the offensive or defensive side of things. Bitim, on the other hand, has only one year of impressive international basketball under his belt. Even then, Bitim’s All-EuroCup Team nomination came on the back of high-volume, low-efficiency scoring. He won’t be provided the same sort of long leash in the NBA, to say the least.
This situation now has many fans likening this decision to the Spencer Dinwiddie fiasco in 2016, and I can’t say I blame them. All we can do now is hope this doesn’t turn out the same way, although I can’t shake the feeling that this was all a self-inflicted wound that could have been easily avoided.