The End of the Bench: Introducing Cristiano Felicio

20121001_200539_Cristiano_gde.0.jpgThe Bulls' summer league ended with their lone free agent acquisition of the season, undrafted 6' 9" PF/C Cristiano Felicio out of Brazil.

The signing came as a surprise, considering the draft day acquisition of Bobby Portis had already created a crowded frontcourt situation on the team. Additionally, Cristiano Felicio was a name off of most NBA teams' radars, leaving Bulls' fans wondering, "Who is this guy?"

Felicio's lack of a basketball pedigree can be explained by complications with his international status. As a seventeen year old, Felicio spent three seasons playing basketball professionally in Brazil. At age 21, he decided to leave Brazil and complete his senior year of high school in California to establish college eligibility. After committing to Oregon, things did not go as planned: Felicio was deemed ineligible by the NCAA due to his previous professional involvement in Brazil. Instead of attending college where he could attract the eye of NBA scouts, Felicio was forced to return to Brazil.

Following a year of obscurity back home, Felicio declared for the 2014 NBA draft, but was undrafted. He returned to Brazil for yet another season, and was rewarded for his persistence with a spot on the Bulls' 2015 summer league team.

Although Felicio's summer league stats were unremarkable (13 MPG, 3.33 PPG, 4.5 RPG), he apparently did enough in games to catch GM Gar Forman's eye. Gar released the following statement to the press following the signing:

We've been impressed with Cristiano's work ethic and potential. We're looking forward to working with him and having him come to camp with us this fall.

The acquisition continues a trend of international pickups for the Bulls (Gasol, Mirotic, Bairstow), although one of Bairstow and Felicio will be cut in the competition for the Bulls' 6th big man roster spot. Financially, Bairstow has the edge, as Eric Pincus at BasketballInsiders explains,

Felicio's salary is fully non-guaranteed while Bairstow has a $425k guarantee, giving the latter the likely leg up in a roster spot. If Nazr were to sign, his minimum would have a cap figure of nearly $950k. As a (currently) tax-paying team, these bits matter more.

As a non-guaranteed deal, the Bulls have nothing to lose by keeping Cristiano Felicio around through training camp and seeing how he does. This is Felicio's first real opportunity to prove he belongs in the NBA. Let's see how far he can take it.

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