Over the past two months, there’s been a great deal of discussion as to who the Chicago Bulls would opt to retain and who’d they cut loose to make room for fresh talent. Whether or not you wanted this team to commit to contending or tear it all down for a rebuild, you’re probably at least a little disappointed by the relatively tame decision-making from the front office this summer.
Many fans (myself included) would have preferred Chicago to sign a forward in free agency to shore up the thin rotation at the wing. So when the Bulls instead decided to keep Carlik Jones instead, it added an extra element of pressure to the mix for the up-and-coming guard.
This problem was only made worse when Javon Freeman-Liberty looked incredible in Las Vegas, earning All-Summer League Second Team honors and submitting a strong case to make the main roster. When Chicago decided to let Freeman-Liberty go for nothing — opting to not even retain him on a two-way deal — Jones suffered collateral damage in the backlash from fans who wanted to see what JFL had to offer.
All of the accumulated frustration always felt a little bit unfair, especially after Carlik performed just as well in the Summer League a season prior and then went on to win the G League MVP award with averages of 26.1 points and 7 assists per game. Jones is clearly too good for the G League, but has just been lacking a chance to prove himself in the NBA.
Carlik Jones might finally be ready to become a breakout sensation on the Bulls next season.
While he’s still waiting for his number to be called in the NBA, Jones has not wasted a single opportunity to prove himself on the biggest stages in the world. This summer, he’s taken it upon himself to represent South Sudan in the 2023 FIBA World Cup. This would mark first time the nation has ever qualified for the event, but Jones wasn’t done making history for South Sudan just yet.
Despite posting an absolutely unreal 35 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, and 4 steals in their opener against Puerto Rico, Jones couldn’t quite get the job done in a narrow 96-101 loss. This means they can’t afford another loss if they wish to move on to the next round of the event, with games against China and Serbia still on the schedule.
As it turns out, Jones isn’t ready to go home just yet, because Carlik dropped 21 points and 6 assists to lead South Sudan to a 20-point victory over China. This marks the nation’s first-ever victory in the FIBA World Cup, an achievement they’re not likely to forget for a very, very long time.
While his highlight reels may be entertaining enough, what I enjoyed most was witnessing Jones’ post-game celebration in the locker room. It’s clear to see this feat means so much to everyone involved, and I’m happy to know we’ll have a guy like Jones in the Bulls’ locker room next season.
Moving on from here, South Sudan will have to defeat a very talented Serbia team led by NBA talents Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nikola Jovic. They’ll certainly be the underdogs in this matchup, but I’m just happy they’ve managed to come this far. Chicago’s backcourt rotation may currently be crowded, but if Carlik Jones maintains his current career trajectory, it’s going to become difficult to deny him an opportunity to shine.