Bulls position breakdown: Did GM Gar Forman’s ego handcuff the center position?
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Cristiano Felicio is the poster boy of what happens when a general manager falls in love with his own roster.
The big man was Bulls GM Gar Forman’s discovery going into the 2015 Summer League. By last summer, Forman had signed Felicio to a four-year, $32 million extension.
It was a move that blew up in Forman’s face. Felicio had a chance to earn a spot in the Bulls’ rotation with Nikola Mirotic injured and Bobby Portis suspended, but he was inconsistent.
Felicio’s strength early in his career was his ability to screen and roll to the rim. But that all seemed to go away, and he suddenly looked slow, out of shape and lost on both ends of the court.
Felicio several times admitted that he was trying to live up to his contract and that it messed with his head. He finally showed a bit more life in the last six games of the season, averaging 8.7 points and 7.8 rebounds, but he did little to help his value.
Center Robin Lopez, meanwhile, was underappreciated. Vice president of basketball John Paxson already has said he wants Lopez back for the final year of his contract at $14.3 million and pointed out he was the perfect complementary piece to Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn.
‘‘You can throw Robin into that mix because Robin is obviously an important piece to our future, too,’’ Paxson said. ‘‘The four of them, I think they only played six games together. So that’s one thing we have to find out. We need to find out how those guys play together.
‘‘The promise is there. It’s just this year it was disjointed because of a lot of different things.’’
Who’s coming back
Lopez: For now, take Paxson at his word. What will change that? Well, a trade is always a possibility for a rebuilding team, then there’s the draft. What if the Bulls were to hit on their 5.3 percent chance and land the No. 1 pick in the lottery?
They couldn’t pass up Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton at that spot, which would make Lopez somewhat expendable — if not in the offseason, then at the trade deadline.
Felicio: His contract locks him in for a return. The hope is Felicio can use the summer to get his game and head straight.
Omer Asik: Asik, who came over from the Pelicans in the trade for Mirotic, is signed for $11.2 million next season and is nothing more than a practice body. He basically will be a throw-in for any trades in the next year.
Who could be departing
Very little, especially if the Bulls don’t land a presence in the middle in the draft.
Who’s out there
DeMarcus Cousins, Clint Capela and DeAndre Jordan top the list of potential free-agent centers this summer. But the position won’t be a priority for the Bulls in free agency.
Ayton headlines the draft class, and the Bulls at least will talk about Texas 7-footer Mo Bamba if they stay at No. 6 and he’s around. If they want to use the pick they acquired from the Pelicans (No. 22) to draft a big man, Western Kentucky’s Mitchell Robinson might be an intriguing gamble.