Thursday night did not go as it looked like it was going to at the very least, and it definitely did not go the way Marquette fans wanted it to go for sophomore forward Justin Lewis. NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum concluded the 58th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft by announcing Hugo Besson to the Indiana Pacers, and with that, Lewis went undrafted.
That feels like a bit of a surprise after we collected up that long list of mock drafts and big boards that seemed to indicate that the NBA brain trust saw Lewis as a player worthy of at least a second round pick, perhaps even a first if someone felt a particular kind of way about him. I can’t imagine how it feels for Lewis and his representation at Roc Nation after they withdrew him from five-on-five competition at the Draft Combine, before Lewis had fully committed to staying in the draft. That’s the kind of move you make when an NBA team has given you a guarantee that you will be drafted, not some stunt you pull when you’re “trying to preserve the player’s mystique” or some similar nonsense. After all, Lewis was at Barclays Center on Thursday night for the Draft. It certainly seems like all signs pointed towards him being one of the 58 picks in the draft.
And yet that did not happen, and we — including Lewis, I presume — are wondering what happened.
In any case, Lewis’ Roc Nation representation wasn’t 100% asleep at the wheel, as it turns out. Once the draft concluded, Lewis was the eighth player reported by The Athletic’s Shams Charania in an eight minute span to have an immediate plan going forward. In this case, it’s Lewis agreeing to a two-way contract with the Chicago Bulls.
Marquette's Justin Lewis has agreed to a two-way NBA deal with the Chicago Bulls, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 24, 2022
For clarification on exactly what that means — and I had to look it up to be 100% sure myself —we turn to our friends over at Blazer’s Edge, our SB Nation sister site focused on the Portland Trail Blazers. Just last week, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that two-way deals will pay players a maximum of one-half of the rookie minimum, which would work out to just over $500,000, depending on how much time they spend with the NBA club as opposed to with the G League team. They will be allowed to make a maximum of 50 appearances for their NBA team while spending the rest of the season with the team’s G League affiliate. In Lewis’ case, that’s the Windy City Bulls.
It’s a safe bet that Lewis will play for the Bulls in NBA Summer League when that gets underway in early July. He’ll also assuredly attending training camp in Chicago, and with the G League season starting after the NBA season, it seems likely that Lewis will at least start the 2022-23 campaign on the Bulls bench.
It might not be the way anyone wanted it to go, but there are worse ways to start your professional career off than with a half-million dollar contract tied to a chance to prove you belong. I can’t help but wonder how much of the Bulls being the team to secure Lewis as a two-way player has to do with the connection between Marquette head coach Shaka Smart and Bulls head coach Billy Donovan.
Oh, and speaking of Summer League participation? Theo John’s going to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ team. That’s neat.
Sources: Duke's Theo John has agreed to play in NBA Summer League with the Minnesota Timberwolves.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 24, 2022
Elsewhere in the Big East, UConn’s Tyrese Martin was the only player to be selected in the draft from Marquette’s conference. He went #51 overall in a pick officially made by the Golden State Warriors at the time, but had been traded to the Atlanta Hawks in a deal that had not been finalized at the time.