Javon Freeman-Liberty: 2023-24 Season in Review

Javon Freeman-Liberty contributed amid a turbulent season.

The following is part of Raptors Republic’s series of pieces reviewing the season for the Toronto Raptors. You can find all the pieces in the series here.

In a Raptors season that saw lawsuits, trades, injuries, a gambling scandal, and pizza, most Raptors fans would view the 2023-2024 season as eventful, but not in a good way.

Toronto finished with a 25-57 record — the seventh-worst mark in franchise history — which included a 15-game losing streak — the second-worst mark in franchise history — all while a grand total of 30 players represented Canada’s team at one point or another during the season.

While you can look back at this past season in a gloomy, drab light, silver linings shined through the cloud of misfortune that seemed to cover the Raptors throughout the year. Scottie Barnes emerged snagging his first all-star appearance of his young but promising career. Gradey Dick finished the year looking like a completely different player than he did when the season first began, and the Raptors boasted one of the best players in the G League who started games for the big club in Javon Freeman-Liberty.

Toronto originally picked up the 24-year-old after Summer League, when the Raptors signed Freeman-Liberty to a two-way contract after he averaged 21 points for the Windy City Bulls (G League affiliate of the Chicago Bulls) over the summer. He carried that momentum into the preseason and eventually into the regular season with his new team.

Javon Freeman-Liberty’s story starts in the preseason against the Cairns Taipans on October 15, 2023. The leading scorer for Toronto in that contest wasn’t two-time All-NBA team member Pascal Siakam, it wasn’t a budding star and future face of the franchise Scottie Barnes, nor was it fan favourite OG Anunoby. It was… you guessed it, Javon Freeman-Liberty. 

It was nice to see the 6-foot-4, 190-pound combo guard do well in the preseason, as it foreshadowed what would be a great year to come.

In the G League, the DePaul alum was elite. He put up staggering numbers to the tune of 24.2 points (3rd highest in the G League), 6.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Efficiency-wise, Freeman-Liberty shot 46.9 percent from the field on 18.1 attempts per game, 35.6 percent from deep on 6.6 attempts per game, and hit 81.5 percent from the charity stripe on 4.2 attempts across 22 games. The Chicago, Illinois native flirted with 50-40-90 splits while being the 905’s best and most consistent player all year. He was even named G League performer of the week thanks to a 40-point, six-rebound, five-assist outing.

Freeman-Liberty’s success was thanks to his fast-paced play style. His strengths featured an innate ability to get the paint using his craft, quickness, and creativity to finish around or through bigger defenders at the rim. He showed confidence in his shot from downtown, even showing flashes of off-the-dribble threes towards the end of the season. While mainly taking catch-and-shoot jumpers, his shot mechanically checks out and is compact and quick. On defence, the two-time Missouri Valley Conference team member is no slouch either. He is talented as an on-ball defender using his quickness and length (6-foot-9 wingspan) to disrupt ball handlers.

Overall, the 24-year-old is a combo guard who likes to push the pace. He gets to the rim and finishes well, has developed a consistent jumper, and is at an NBA level defensively already. These skills helped Freeman-Liberty eventually convert his two-way contract into a new standard multi-year deal.

Once in the NBA, it took the guard some time to get his feet underneath him. Across 22 games in the big leagues, Freeman-Liberty put up seven points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 0.5 steals per game. The Chicago native shot 44.4 percent from the field on 5.6 attempts, 23.8 percent from beyond the arc on 1.9 attempts, and 91.7 percent from the free throw line on 1.6 attempts per game. Javon posted a true shooting percentage of 54.7 percent, slightly below the average for a point guard at 56.4 percent according to statmuse, while also having a box plus/minus of -5.3 which is well below what is considered replacement level at -2.0.

He showcased lots of what got him to the NBA, the shot from deep did not fall, however. Freeman-Liberty only hit 10 three-pointers out of the 42 he took. Later into the year, however, the combo guard got more comfortable and was rewarded with a chance to start, in which he popped.

Freeman-Liberty put up 13 points, 4.8 rebounds, three assists, and 0.5 steals in six games as a starter, including a career-high 20-point, 8-rebound performance in a loss against the Pacers. As a starter, his field goal percentage went up to 51.7 percent, while he took over four more attempts from when he wasn’t starting (9.6). His three-point percentages stayed around the same as he shot 23.5 percent on 2.8 attempts per game. It’s always encouraging to see a player’s numbers increase when they get an opportunity, especially if you are looking into the future.

For the 2024-2025 season, Freeman-Liberty is under contract for nearly two million, though only $100,000 is guaranteed right now and only $800,000 is guaranteed come opening night. The 24-year-old does fit alongside the Raptors core of Scottie Barnes, Immanuel Quickley and R.J. Barrett, as a guard who can manage some ball-handling duties, provide pesky on-ball defence, hit open 3’s, and attack the paint effectively in the half-court or transition.

It was a wild season, but amid all the distractions, the Raptors might have found a player they can move forward with next year and beyond.