The NBA selectively enforces forgery rules, but tends to be more stringent when it comes to signing and trading deals. Last offseason, it was widely reported that Bogdan Bogdanovic would join the Milwaukee Bucks through a signing and trade even before free agency began. Allegations of tampering were made almost immediately, the deal fell apart and the Bucks were selected as a second-round pick after an investigation found they had indeed tampered with.
Tampering is considered a fairly common practice throughout the NBA. There is an element of common sense in this. The overwhelming majority of major free agent deals are reported in the early hours in which players and teams can legally negotiate. It seems much more likely that teams and players had pre-existing contact than they could, say, negotiate an $ 85 million deal in the first minute of free will.
But the NBA is doing very little to prevent teams from tampering. A second round pick or a $ 50,000 fine is a small price to pay for a free agency’s competitive advantage. The league just couldn’t ban the moves themselves, as every subsequent move made during this offseason was based on the assumption that Lowry would travel to Miami and Ball would join the Bulls. Teams no longer have the financial flexibility to offer these players deals on the scale they eventually signed, and other players are also involved in these deals.
At this point, the league has yet to find an effective deterrent against tampering. If it turns out that the teams involved in those deals have tampered with, perhaps tougher penalties will follow given Bogdanovic’s situation in the last offseason. But until the league takes a stand against tampering, there’s no reason to believe teams will stop doing it.