NBA investigating multiple teams for tampering in blockbuster sign-and-trades

Dec 23, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball (2) drives to the basket as Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) defends during the first quarter at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The National Basketball Association has started cracking down on tampering in recent years and in an offseason that saw multiple sign-and-trade deals, multiple NBA teams are now under investigation.

The league’s investigations come just months after the Milwaukee Bucks were penalized after the NBA discovered the team tampered in free agency for a Bogdan Bogdanovic sign-and-trade. While the deal never came to fruition because a team filed a complaint, Milwaukee still lost a 2022 draft pick.

Now, in a summer that saw Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry moved to new homes in sign-and-trade agreements, at least four teams are facing investigations.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne, the NBA opened investigations into potential tampering violations by the Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Pelicans.

Miami officially completed its blockbuster trade for Lowry on Aug. 6, the first day it was allowed to do so under league rules. But Wojnarowski reported on Aug. 1, in advance of the start of free agency, that Miami had put itself in a position to acquire Lowry and listed the specifics of the exact deal made days later.

The circumstances are fairly similar to what happened last offseason between the Bucks and Sacramento Kings. ESPN reported that Milwaukee agreed to send Donte DiVincenzo, Ersan Ilyasova and D.J. Wilson for Sacramento for Bogdanovic and Justin James. An unidentified team filed a complaint, leading to the trade falling apart and the Bucks being penalized.

Chicago and New Orleans could face similar problems. Reports of Ball signing with the Bulls emerged hours before the signing window opened, with reports detailing a sign-and-trade agreement with the Pelicans. As ESPN first reported, New Orleans received Tomas Satoransky, Garrett Temple and a second-round pick in the deal.

With the investigations underway, league officials could request communication records from all teams accused of tampering. If the inquiry determines rules were violated, those involved could all face significant discipline.

As ESPN notes, the maximum fine for tampering is $10 million, player contracts can be voided, draft-pick forfeitures are common and the league can suspend team executives.

The Bucks likely avoided a more significant penalty because the Bogdanovic trade wasn’t completed. Considering Lowry and Ball deals were made official, it’s possible teams involved could face greater punishment.