Cristiano Felicio is doing something that's quite foreign to most Bulls' fans--he's progressing.
A young player actually developing in Chicago's system? Shocking, I know, but once the initial surprise wears off this is a one of the few things to be optimistic about. So as teams search the league for good, young, and affordable talent before Thursday's trade deadline, it's nice to know that Chicago has something. So let's all be positive--amongst all of the Jimmy Butler trade rumors, GarPax hate, and general dysfunctional, shall we?
The 6-foot-10 center got his start in the NBA when he impressed team officials during the 2015 Summer League. He was invited to camp, spent most of the season playing in the NBADL with the Canton Charge, and when Joakim Noah injured his shoulder in January--Felicio was called upon. He went on the play in 31 games for Chicago down the stretch, and was impressive at some points. He then went on to star on the Bulls' Summer League Championship team, and replace Anderson Varejao at the Rio Olympics. Quite the ride for the big guy. His performances, and continual growth over the summer secured him a spot in the Bulls' rotation, and here we are.
So far this season, Felicio has averaged 4.8 points per game, 4.9 rebounds per game, and is playing 15.7 minutes per game. The big Brazilian's numbers don't jump off the page at you, but if given more playing time, we could see even more progress. The young center leads the the team in True Shooting percentage, Effective Field Goal percentage, and Rebound percentage. When he's out on the floor he is extremely active--especially on the glass. He has been one of the lone bright spots for this team that's struggling to find stability from their younger players such as Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis, and Doug McDermott.
Felicio runs the floor extremely well, knows where to be on the floor, and is rarely out of position on the defensive end. At times, he does struggle guarding bigs that stretch the floor, but his lateral quickness is much better than the average NBA center. He also is very good guarding the pick and roll, which is extremely refreshing considering that we had to watch Pau Gasol the past couple of seasons. Big Cris has also developed some nice chemistry with Dwyane Wade.
Felicio is a restricted free agent this offseason, and I am sure that some team will offer him some good money. The question is whether or not Chicago would match any offer given to Felicio. This season he's making $874,636--which is the second lowest salary on the current roster. It will be interesting to see whether or not he's a part of the Bulls' long term plan, but actually investing in a player that is progressing wouldn't be the worst move.