The New York Knicks will lose their 2025 second-round pick due to the results of the league’s investigation into their pursuit of Jalen Brunson. The extensive links between Brunson and the Knicks fueled speculation that the courtship may have started before the beginning of free agency. With tampering now confirmed, the league has a more significant question to answer.
The NBA has taken away the Knicks' 2nd-round pick in 2025, as a penalty for tampering with Jalen Brunson prior to free agency. pic.twitter.com/N4KIs6jPiB— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) December 21, 2022
The loss of a second-round draft pick is negligible at best. While gems come out of the second round all the time, the value such a draft pick holds is infinitesimal compared to the upside of breaking the rules. When teams can “fully cooperate” with an investigation after the fact and gain a strategic advantage in the open market knowing the consequences are minimal, the behavior will continue unabated.
The league should take a hard turn in either direction. Either open up the lines of communication to any player under contract at any time or begin to come down so hard on the next team that tampers so the incentive to do so is ruined.
Imagine free agents openly entertaining offers while still playing for their current team at the tail end of the season or neck deep in a grueling playoff run. It would be toxic to locker rooms around the league as players would question loyalty and motivation if those dialogues inevitably became public. With that route clearly being untenable, there is only one solution remaining.
Instead of a single second-rounder, how about two first-round draft picks? Losing that much capital would cause everyone involved to think twice. Would the player want to sign with a team that may be losing that much power in the draft and trade market? Would the pursuing team decide it was best to wait and play by the rules rather than risk organizational malpractice?
In life, we teach others how to treat us based on what we will tolerate and change behavior by setting new boundaries. In the NBA, the league has decided to tolerate tampering by doling out token punishment that does nothing to change the incentive structure for free agency communication gone awry. Unless and until they decide to demarcate a new boundary by inflicting a painful loss on offenders, expect tampering to continue with a wink and a smile.