knicks fined draft pick tampering jalen brunson

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The New York Knicks went after Jalen Brunson hard this summer. So hard it cost them a second-round pick.

It was an open secret that the Knicks were interested in Brunson, lately of the Dallas Mavericks. They hired his father, Rick Brunson, to join coach Tom Thibodeau’s staff in June. That’s not illegal in itself, but NBA teams aren’t allowed to contact free agents until the start of free agency. The price was a second-rounder in 2025.

Tampering is a common occurrence in the NBA. How else are so many free-agent deals announced right as free agency begins each year? But the league has been attempting to crack down on egregious tampering in the last few years.

The NBA docked the Philadelphia 76ers two second-round picks for tampering back in September, for a series of moves where team president Daryl Morey acquired two former Rockets, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker. Last year, the NBA fined both the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat a second-round pick for their sign-and-trades of Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry, respectively. And two years ago, the Milwaukee Bucks lost a second-rounder for improper contact with Bogdan Bogdanovic, a player they never successfully traded for.

While the NBA is cracking down, it’s not clear that this will effectively deter teams from tampering. Brunson has been the Knicks’ best player this year. And the Knicks still have the Brooklyn Nets’ second-round pick in 2025. Getting Brunson for a spare second-round pick three years in the future is a deal the Knicks would make every time.

Even when the tampering violations are flagrant, the NBA’s response is a slap on the wrist. 

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