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Marquette forward Justin Lewis has the upside to become a dynamic weapon at the next level. The tools are in the loading process and some NBA team needs to invest in the potential.
A prospect can get your undivided attention in a number of different ways. Some wow you with their speed—showcasing the ability to fly up the court like a race car while shifting gears and dazzling you with their elusiveness. Others might grab your curiosity with explosiveness. You find yourself quickly holding your breath as you see them out wide in transition, loading up for a potential highlight dunk as they float effortlessly through the air.
Shooting can also be something that makes your eyes sparkle with delight. You find yourself holding up a three-point sign with your hand each time the player gets a wide-open look from beyond the arc. Maybe shot-blocking is your type of thing. The moment you see a player attack the basket aggressively, you zone in on the big man loading up for an emphatic rejection that would make Dikembe Mutombo shed a proud tear.
But then there’s a rare area that doesn’t get enough attention when it comes to evaluating and expressing excitement about a prospect…
When you get your first glance at Marquette forward Justin Lewis, you start to have some thoughts dance around your head. You begin to attempt to draw conclusions about the type of player that the recently turned 20-year-old might be. “He looks heavy, must be a little slow off the bounce.” Nope. “He looks strong, but I bet he’s more of an interior presence.” Not so fast, folks.
Every NBA Draft provides us with a large slate of prospects that we find ourselves burning through film with a possessed rage. We continue to go through Big Board rankings, debating whether or not Player A should be higher than Player B. This is a procedure that we eventually repeat. Not just once, it usually happens about 3,450,600 times…and then we do it again.
Throughout that process, a number of different obstacles can occur. One of the most popular obstacles is we find ourselves “glued to the buzz.” This is the time of the year in which we chase the momentum. Intel and information become more precious than gold as we dig our way around the league to find out what player is starting to heat up when it comes to the pre-draft process.
Every Draft will feature a player that suddenly starts to blossom in the eyes of decision-makers at the NBA level. That means that even if you find yourself locked in on your prospect rankings, one simple message or report can send you back into the film room to re-evaluate your thoughts.
There always seems to be one prospect that has been continuously excited about their upside. No matter how hard I try to fight it, I always seem to find myself diving back into the fountain of belief. It’s the player that the moment you dive back into their tape, you find yourself saying: “Yes! Now I remember why I have always loved this guy.” It’s like going to a restaurant and having one of the best meals ever, then forgetting about that meal for months before you find yourself starving and struggling to figure out what to eat. Then you suddenly remember: “Oh my gosh, that’s exactly where I should go—that meal rocked.”
This is basically exactly how I feel about Justin Lewis. The Marquette forward took some serious strides this year for the Golden Eagles, and he appears to be just scratching the surface. The tools at his disposal are legit, everything you would want from a raw forward with promising skills that just need development. Lewis is listed at 6’7” and 245 pounds, with a reported 7’2” wingspan. He has the length and power to battle inside the paint but also has the first step and quickness to attack off the bounce. On top of all of that, he saw his outside shot become a major weapon this year.
Lewis is considered a red-shirt freshman and took some serious strides forward this year regarding his play on the court. There’s legit upside when it comes to the tools that are loading and just waiting to be untapped. It’s also important to point out that Lewis had an 11-game stretch this year in which he averaged 19.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game while shooting 49.7% from the field and 47.5% from three-point range. Believe in the tools, folks; it’s just waiting to be unleashed…
21 G | 1 GS | 21.0 MIN | 7.8 PPG | 5.4 RPG | 0.8 APG | 0.4 SPG
7.2 FGA | 1.5 3PA | 41.7 FG% | 21.9 3P% | 57.7 FT%
32 G | 32 GS | 32.2 MIN | 16.8 PPG | 7.9 RPG | 1.7 APG | 1.1 SPG
13.8 FGA | 8.7 3PA | 44.0 FG% | 34.9 3P% | 76.1 FT%
All of those numbers are eye-opening when it comes to the massive jump in production across the board. When you evaluate prospects that spend multiple years in the collegiate ranks, it’s always important to check their progressions throughout the years. You want to at least see some sort of improvements in a number of different categories. Usually, when players return for another year, you’ll see that the shot attempts can jump rapidly due to the fact that the team is likely to ask that player to take on a bigger load offensively.
When that happens, it’s common to see the player’s efficiency struggle. That wasn’t the case for Lewis, who took sizeable leaps forward in a number of categories despite a huge jump in shot attempts. It’s a promising development that shows that Justin Lewis is still loading when it comes to becoming an all-around asset on the basketball court.
As always, enough talk…let’s watch some film.
The development of an outside shot has made Justin Lewis a much more intriguing prospect moving forward. Not only because Lewis has showcased the ability to stretch the floor from deep, but because he also has the ability to attack the basket with vicious intentions. Although Lewis is listed at a freakish 6’7” and 245 pounds, he has the length and burst off the bounce to get downhill in a HURRY. If Lewis can continue to take strides forward as an outside shooter, he has the tools to develop an intriguing in-between game offensively.
Lewis really jumps off on tape when you see him in transition. Not only does he have the ability to pull up from extended range with relative ease (more on that shortly), but he can also fly up the court. The numbers back it up, as Lewis ranked in the 94th percentile when it came to transition offense. The combination of size, length, and power makes the athletic forward a dangerous threat in the open floor.
The strides that the Marquette product took this year as an outside shooter are more impressive than the jump in three-point percentage might suggest. Lewis has the ability to get NBA Jam hot from outside and completely take over a game. It’s also part of the reason why he’s become such a dangerous threat in transition. At 6’7” with a high release, Lewis can rise above defenders, even when he’s smothered.
If you find yourself asking why NBA teams might be so fascinated with the potential of the recently turned 20-year-old, my response to you would be offensive versatility. Marquette ran Lewis in a number of different roles. He became a popular pick-and-pop weapon due to his developing three-point shot. Lewis can get hot from outside, and then once he establishes it, he lights up when he has the chance to attack aggressive defenders.
The footwork is something that continues to make me fascinated with Lewis. While he’s still going to be a bit of a project when it comes to getting all of the tools to mold together, Lewis shows you brilliant flashes that suggest that a bigger picture is rising to the surface. Great drive above that showcases a beautiful spin dribble, one that Lewis has flashed many times on tape.
One of my favorite things while watching Justin Lewis on film is the patience he has on some of his drives. His freakish lower frame and quickness are difficult to deal with for any defender. Lewis will take his man off the dribble and back him down like a veteran NBA center. Once he gets that player in the “danger zone” he attacks the basket with pure power.
Throughout my deep dive of Justin Lewis, I came away a bit impressed with some of the playmaking flashes. You wouldn’t think of it by looking at Lewis’ 1.7 assists per game, but that’s the beauty of film, folks. Now, as I’ve said a number of times throughout this segment…Lewis is going to need some time to find his groove. He can get a little careless with the ball, but the flashes of vision and playmaking ability left me believing in the upside of a more all-around offensive weapon.
Justin Lewis is going to be one of the more fascinating prospects that potentially could find himself in the 2022 NBA Draft class. Although Lewis has declared for the draft, he’s still kept his eligibility to return for Marquette for another year. I still believe that an NBA team will be more than intrigued by the raw tools that he has at his disposal. Lewis could be a name that starts to impress teams throughout the pre-draft process, especially when it comes to workouts.
The biggest area for Lewis to unlock will be his defensive ability. Although Lewis has the size and length to be a disruptive presence on the defensive side of the ball, he’s going to need a team to be patient with unlocking his potential. The tools are there for Lewis to become a versatile asset on both sides of the floor, and some NBA organization would be smart to invest in his upside.