After a four-month investigation, the NBA has punished the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat with the loss of second-round draft picks because of premature discussions into the free agency of guards Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry, the league announced Wednesday.
Chicago and Miami will lose their next available second-round pick after the league concluded that the teams had impermissible discussions with representatives of the players ahead of the opening of free agency on Aug. 2. In a memo to teams obtained by ESPN, the league wrote, "Both teams fully cooperated with the investigations," which was a factor in the penalties.
In a statement, the Heat said, "While we disagree, we accept the league's decision."
The Bulls released a statement, saying: "We are glad this process has concluded and look forward to the rest of our season."
The NBA conducted numerous interviews with team executives and player agents and gathered electronic messaging of front-office executives of four teams -- Chicago, New Orleans, Miami and Toronto -- over the past four months. ESPN reported on Aug. 7 about the start of a league investigation into whether illegal contact and negotiations occurred ahead of the opening of free agency on Aug. 2 at 6 p.m. ET.
The league instituted more-stringent penalties in such cases in 2019, including raising the maximum fine for teams to $10 million and potentially suspending team executives, forfeiting draft picks and even the voiding of contracts.
Sign-and-trade arrangements are more complicated and time-consuming than typical free-agent signings, often needing a greater level of discussion and negotiation time to complete.
Miami negotiated a three-year, $85 million deal with Lowry in the sign-and-trade that sent guard Goran Dragic and forward Precious Achiuwa to the Raptors. The Heat guaranteed Dragic's $19.4 million team option before free agency, which allowed them to use him in the sign-and-trade deal.
The Pelicans agreed to trade Ball, a restricted free agent, to the Bulls on a four-year, $80 million contract for Garrett Temple on a new three-year, $15.5 million contract, and guard Tomas Satoransky.
The Milwaukee Bucks lost a 2022 second-round pick for tampering charges with Sacramento Kings restricted free agent Bogdan Bogdanovic. With the penalty, the NBA took into consideration that the Bucks did not ultimately acquire Bogdanovic during the 2020 offseason. He went to the Atlanta Hawks.