Dalen Terry wasn’t the only rookie Bull added to Chicago’s roster on Thursday. In addition to the raw University of Arizona sophomore swingman, the Bulls also wasted no time after the draft and signed Marquette forward Justin Lewis to a two-way contract.
Draftniks seem to love Lewis, who was largely expected to be selected in the second round. The Athletic’s John Hollinger was so (ahem) bullish on Lewis’s ceiling that he listed Lewis at No. 27 in his draft prospect rankings. He went to the Magic at No. 32 in SI college expert Jeremy Woo’s mock draft, to the Lakers at No. 35 in the final Bleacher Report mock, to the Clippers at No. 43 in ESPN writer Jonathany Givony’s mock, and to the Hawks at No. 44 in The Athletic writer Sam Vecenie’s last predraft mock.
When Lewis fell out of the draft entirely, he was praised as one of the best undrafted players by Givony:
Best 2022 Undrafted Prospects:— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) June 24, 2022
Michael Foster Jr
Ron Harper Jr
Kenneth Lofton Jr
Scotty Pippen Jr
Lewis also topped ESPN’s post-draft list of the best undrafted prospects.
The 6’7.5” forward played for two seasons with Marquette. During his sophomore year, Lewis became a full-time starter for the Golden Eagles. In that 2021-22 season, Lewis averaged 16.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.6 blocks per game across 32 contests. For his efforts, the 20-year-old was named the 2022 Big East Most Improved Player, in addition to being added to the 2022 First-Team All- Big East.
At the college level, Lewis evolved into a reliable volume three-point shooter by his final season with Marquette. He connected on 34.9% of his 5.2 three-point looks a night. Overall, he nailed 49.5% of his field goals. In the highlight reel below, he also exhibits an ability to exploit driving lanes with the rock:
Justin Lewis's improvement as an off-ball shooter was so important this season. Besides the obvious spacing, it also created opportunities for him to attack closeouts, finish at the rim in a myriad of ways, and create for others. pic.twitter.com/1QSBoDAevk— Tyler Metcalf (@tmetcalf11) June 22, 2022
If given some run, either with Chicago proper or with their NBA G League affiliate the Windy City Bulls, Lewis has the outlines of a solid multi-tiered scorer who could slot in at either forward spot. At the NBA predraft combine in Chicago, his wingspan measured a whopping 7’2.5”! Lewis’s 32.5” standing vertical leap ranked as the fourth-best overall in the combine. His massive mitts (clocked as being 10.5” wide at the combine) also lend credence to the idea that he could perhaps evolve into a quality defender at the NBA level. Apparently there was some question as to Lewis’s ability to guard wings due to questionable speed.
In the SB Nation mock draft, Mitchell Maurer of Brew Hoop wanted the Bucks to reach for Lewis with the No. 24 selection, citing his shooting ability and physical gifts, likening him to undersized, sharp-shooting power forwards like P.J. Tucker, Grant Williams and Jae Crowder.
Rob Schaeffer of NBC Sports Chicago suggests that Lewis can play both along the perimeter and in the frontcourt as a power forward. The additions of Lewis and Terry seem to help paint a fuller picture of what Chicago’s front office, led by Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley, like to prioritize: positional flexibility, length and athletic upside.
Speaking to Charlotte Carroll of The Athletic, Marquette assistant coach Cody Hatt commended Lewis’s growth during his sophomore season:
“I think that you saw him kind of really evolve into a guy that went from a first-year player, who certainly had some flashes where he impacted winning and showed his promises as a player, into a guy who down the stretch of the season was as feared a player for opposing coaches to try to game plan for or stop,” Hatt said. “Who in big moments was someone we trusted to take big shots or found himself at the center of a lot of the success we were having.”
In his assessment of the latest Bull, Hollinger cautions that Lewis seems to occasionally settle for jump shots and to appear disengaged on the defensive end. Again, Hollinger thinks that Lewis projects as, at minimum, some level of rotation player, thanks to his strength, length and positional fluidity. The fact that Lewis could potentially be more of that makes him look like quite the steal as a two-way contract.