A Solution for NBA Tampering

Updated: August 14, 2021
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The league is currently investigating possible tampering violations with regards to the Lonzo Ball sign and trade to Chicago and the Kyle Lowry sign and trade to Miami. Not only were the trades executed only hours after the official free agency had begun, but the rumors of these deals were common knowledge more than 48 hours prior to the trades themselves. We saw last year tampering botched the Bucks acquisition of Bogdan Bogdanović from Sacramento as a new commitment by the league to stop tampering. The response around the league, however, is these measures are a bit misguided since the punishments given out appear to be quite selective. Almost every deal done in the first 12 hours of free agency most likely involved a certain level of tampering not to mention the open tampering done by players which is unenforceable under the current CBA.

The question that needs to be addressed is not how to stop tampering, especially since the most frequent use of it is being done by an unrestricted channel. Instead, the goal should be to reduce the symptoms of tampering that actually affects the league. The reason tampering is so problematic is not that a team talks to a player under contract since this can simply be done from player to player; something that will never change or be restricted. The problem is that so many deals are being finalized before the other 28 team’s in the league are able to get their offer sheet in for the acquisition of the asset.

This is something that can be addressed with a change in scheduling. Rather than policing a rule just for the sake of protecting a rule, the league can minimize this symptom. The solution is to move free agency prior to the draft. 5 days before the draft there is a window of a soft-free-agency period, where no players can be signed, but conversation can begin with all other 29 teams. This allows for teams to get their offer sheets and proposals in and get the buzz of future transactions to swirl around the NBA media storm. 3 hours before the draft, official free agency begins. All sign and trades that have been discussed in the last 5 days can be executed along with attaching draft capital.

Imagine what those 4 hours would look like, the 3 hours before the draft and the first 14 lottery picks. Other than the Finals, it would become the most important 4 hours of the NBA season. Instead of the league and ESPN being behind on the action, it would highlight the transactions coming in and picks being attached to big-name trades. With the 5-day window, it would allow for all possible transactions and signings to be explored and exhausted waiting to burst on the scene right before the draft.

As of now, teams operate in fear of executing a deal too quickly because of situations like the current investigation in Chicago and Miami with Ball and Lowry. Instead, the 3 hours of explosive television would be celebrated with a record number of transactions happening just before and during the draft. The draft would become a signature moment in sports and would no longer be seen as a second-tier event in comparison to the NFL’s. If anything, they should just allow tampering since it is already happening constantly, why are we attempting to enforce something which cannot be controlled? Instead, create an environment that encourages a free market of all the assets available where all teams have an equal opportunity to put their bids in on a transaction.

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