With the season creeping closer and closer, we’ll take a look at each member of the Chicago Bulls roster and profile each player. Next up: Cristiano Felicio, a hardworking, athletic monster who knows his role.
Cristiano Felicio was outstanding in limited action during his first year against the most seasoned NBA veteran centers. Felicio blossomed into a nice piece off the bench for a bad Bulls team. Even fans who despise Gar Forman were happy for him signing an unknown to many fans and were cheering wildly for him by the end of the season.
Felicio’s late-season run (and an Anderson Varejao injury) landed him a spot on the Brazilian National Team for the 2016 Olympics. Like most of the 2015-16 season, Felicio played in a limited role, but had a couple nice performances over the summer for the Bulls in Las Vegas, too.
Felicio is a 6’10”, 275-pound tank when that can be a big backstop for the Bulls in the middle. Even the shifty Kyrie Irving couldn’t get past him when the Bulls matched up against the Cleveland Cavaliers late last season.
The video below is of Felicio’s breakout game against the world champion Cavs last April. As long as his teammates look for him when he dives to the rim to score, Felicio can be a nasty pick-and-roll weapon this season.
The new Bulls should also trust him to make return passes if they move the ball around to space the floor.
Today’s Fastbreak columnist Michael Wonsover had the best analytics profile on Cristiano Felicio from last season.
"Felicio displayed his rebounding abilities in Brazil, but passing is something no one expected him to excel at in the NBA. He’s averaging 3.5 assists per 40 minutes with an assist ratio of 23.1, which stop me if I’ve said this before, would rank fourth among power forwards if he qualified."
Felicio was a highly efficient scorer off pick-and-roll sets. Diving to the rim from the blindside for putbacks, he looked he was unstoppable at times. No one expected him to be a target of pocket passes from his teammates while attacking in traffic.
The Bulls rebounded the ball and protected the paint better with Felicio at the center position, compared to Pau Gasol or Taj Gibson. This might be an indication that he will be playing the lion’s share of backup big man minutes this coming season behind Robin Lopez.
In the Las Vegas Summer League this past July, Felicio again proved that he was one of the most efficient Bulls options. He attacked the post off set plays or broken plays, and even had another perfect shooting night in a game (just like he did against Cleveland last April). on mostly layups, dunks and putbacks in traffic. Felicio has football (soccer) training to sidestep even the most crowded middle to score at will when the Bulls provided good spacing.
The best performances from Felicio will come when he plays with a three-point shooter (like Doug McDermott or Nikola Mirotic) or a strong slasher like Jimmy Butler or Dwyane Wade. Felicio’s first option when he snags a loose ball or rebound is to quickly swing the ball to a good option like an open man on the perimeter or a cutter.
If Cristiano Felicio can somehow also add a consistent 3-point shot as part of his offensive arsenal, the Bulls have a keeper.