If tampering is what is required to take the next step, and all it ends up costing you is a fine and maybe some future draft picks that won’t affect this year’s squad, then that’s just the price of doing business in the NBA. Especially in the Eastern Conference.
According to a recent ESPN report, the league is looking into whether Miami and Chicago allegedly violated protocols and started courting Kyle Lowry and Lonzo Ball, respectively, earlier than is allowed. Teams aren’t supposed to chat up free agents until a designated start time (specifically that was 6 p.m. ET, August 2nd), but when news starts flying on Twitter that highly prized players are signing with new squads seconds after said start we all know something has been in the works for more than a hot minute.
Fans don’t care about tampering and nor, apparently, do most teams in the NBA if we’re being real. Longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein laid out some tampering truths the other day that’s worth a read. After the Bulls and Heat significantly upped their talent level, I highly doubt that either squad, if found guilty, will regret the modest punishment likely to be handed down by the league. Both teams drastically improved their lot in a conference that made big strides in free agency. The East is no longer the “Leastern Conference.” In fact, it arguably hasn’t been this stacked in years.
Over a week after free agency opened up and rosters were altered—legally or by the book—it’s worth surveying all 15 teams and putting them in some kind of order well before training camps open in the fall. Rest assured there was no tampering with our order—we played by the rules—and there’s a decent chance the rankings could look different just before the season tips. That’s because there’s still one big roster move a particular squad seemingly has to make that would yet again alter the competitive landscape of the East.