Per ESPN’s Ramonna Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA is investigating the sign-and-trade deals involving the Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Pelicans, and the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors for “possible tampering violations.”
The Bulls acquired Lonzo Ball in their deal with the Pelicans, and the Heat secured veteran point guard Kyle Lowry in their move with the Raptors. One major question–especially from Bulls fans–is if the Bulls are found guilty of breaking NBA tampering rules, what are the potential consequences?
Let’s take a look at what the scope of the NBA’s investigation will be, and what it could mean for Chicago.
What is the NBA Looking At?
The NBA will be looking into the possibility the Bulls and the other aforementioned teams made illegal contact with the other organizations or players prior to swinging deals that took place at the outset of the free agency period on Monday at 6 pm ET, per ESPN.
According to ESPN, the Bulls, Pelicans, Heat, Raptors, the players involved in the deals and their agents have been notified of the investigation.
The Bulls’ deal with the Pelicans was complicated one. Ball was a restricted free agent, whom the Bulls were interested in at the trade deadline last season. The two teams were unable to come to an agreement at the time, but it was widely discussed ovber the past few months that Chicago would come after Ball at the outset of free agency.
Ultimately, Ball agreed to a 4-year, $85 million deal and the Pelicans completed the sign-and-trade swap in exchange for Garrett Temple (who signed a three-year $15.5 million deal) and Tomas Satoransky, who’s contract will pay him $10 million this season.
Per ESPN, the deal still hasn’t been made official, and it could “look different in its final form.”
I just a Dragon Ball Z vision, but I digress.
Worst Possible Scenario for the Bulls
There are a few things that could happen to the Bulls if they are found guilty of tampering. Per ESPN’s report, the worst-case scenario is the trade acquisitions are voided, Chicago is forced to forfeit draft picks (which the team is already drained of because of the Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan deals), the organization could face fines up to $10 million, and Arturas Karnisovas and/or Marc Eversley could be suspended. Wojnarowski covered these possibilities in a tweet following the initial report.
NBA insider Marc Stein explained why sign-and-trade deals are more apt to be investigated than straight signings.
Many have used the most-recent tampering case as some precedence for the current investigation. The Milwaukee Bucks had to forfeit a second-round pick after they were found guilty for tampering with their attempted acquisition of the Sacramento Kings’ restricted free agent Bogdan Bogdanovic. The Atlanta Hawks wound up signing Bogdanovic, thus the Bucks took a relative slap on the wrist. The Bulls’ situation is different because they did secure Ball.
Most experts–including long-time salary-cap guru Bobby Marks–don’t foresee the Bulls’ deal with Ball being voided, even if the NBA finds them guilty of tampering. However, he and others (like Stein) do believe the Bulls will face a “stiffer penalty” than the one the Bucks received last season because they didn’t sign Bogdanovic
Best Possible Scenario for the Bulls
The best thing that can happen is pretty obvious. The NBA’s investigation doesn’t show nay evidence that tampering took place, and the Bulls escape any penalty, moving forward with what has been one of the most encouraging offseasons in more than a decade.
I tweeted this analogy earlier because I believe it accurately describes the mind state of many Bulls fans as they learned of the NBA’s investigation on Saturday.
The Bulls do have one thing on their side. Because they had a very well-known interest in acquiring Ball at the trade deadline, it is possible their initial failure to trade for him during the season is what created the framework for a deal that came together so quickly after the start of free agency.
That said, if texts and emails are pulled and the Bulls are caught red-handed, none of the other stuff matters.
A Scenario That Falls Somewhere in the Middle
While Bulls fans are hoping for the best-case scenario, logic, life and experience tells us its possible–if not probable–something rule-breaking took place during the process.
Most fans will be slightly bummed if the Bulls are found guilty. However, as long as the penalty doesn’t result in the Ball deal being voided, the team losing more valuable assets or a drastic limitation on what can be done with the inevitable trade of Lauri Markkanen, Bulls Nation will get over this thing quickly.
The investigation could take a month, which put a pause on the next Bulls move.