SAVOY — Kendall Gill has had time to digest all of the money spent this month on NBA free agents.
The 51-year-old former Flyin’ Illini legend, who carved out a 16-year NBA career playing for six teams from 1990-2005, had one request.
“I wish my parents would have had me later,” Gill said with a laugh.
Alas, while Gill enjoyed lucrative NBA salaries during his time playing in the league, the current Chicago Bulls analyst for NBC Sports Chicago is in awe of what the league has done in July.
From Damian Lilliard’s four-year, $196 million deal with the Trail Blazers to Kevin Durant signing a reported four-year, $164 million deal with the Nets to Kawhi Leonard inking a three-year deal with the Clippers worth a reported $110 million, the money has flowed.
“I can’t believe it,” Gill said. “Free agency has been absolutely crazy. It’s the most movement I’ve ever seen since I’ve been involved in the NBA.”
Gill played with the Bulls for one season toward the tail end of his time in the NBA and still follows closely in his role with NBC Sports Chicago. Despite the Bulls coming off one of the worst seasons in franchise history with a 22-60 record and missing the playoffs for the second straight season, Gill likes the offseason moves they’ve made.
Drafting North Carolina point guard Coby White in the first round last month, along with signing veterans Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky, gives the Bulls some solid pieces to incorporate with a young core of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Otto Porter Jr., with the 26-year-old Porter the oldest of those four.
“They’re putting together guys that stay on the floor and stay healthy because they’ve had a problem with that the past couple years,” Gill said. “They’ve put together guys that are young and athletic, something they told us they were going to do a few years ago. I really like the direction the Bulls are heading in.”
Still, more work remains. Especially for the Bulls to jump into not only contention for a playoff spot, but also in the top half of the Eastern Conference.
“The key now for the Bulls is to just stay healthy,” Gill said. “Last year, they had four significant injuries in training camp, which totally obliterated their chances to go to the playoffs and also cost Fred Hoiberg his job. If they stay on the floor, they’re going to vie for the seventh or eighth playoff spot.”
With the NBA All-Star Game at the United Center on Feb. 16, 2020, Gill is hopeful the Bulls can have a player in the game for the first time since Jimmy Butler in 2017. One player to keep an eye on in that regard, according to Gill, is LaVine. The 6-foot-5 guard, who led the Bulls in scoring last season at 23.7 points, is poised to take the next step. With one caveat, which Gill intends to offer input on.
“If Zach improves on the defensive end, he will be an All-Star next year,” Gill said. “I’ve talked with him at length about improving on the defensive end, and actually, I’m going to work with him this summer on a couple defensive things that I believe will help him.”
But out of all the player movement in the past few weeks, the decision of Leonard to leave the defending NBA champion Raptors and go to the Clippers is one of the most significant ones, Gill said.
“There’s a lot of parity in the league,” Gill said. “If I was Kawhi, I actually would have stayed in Toronto and see if I can run it back and win another championship because there’s another team in L.A. that just reloaded called the Lakers that I don’t think Kawhi will be able to get past in the Western Conference ever, even with Paul George. If he had stayed in the East, it probably wouldn’t be as hard to get out of.”