The NBA's investigation into the Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Pelicans' sign-and-trade agreement centered on Lonzo Ball has concluded.
Both the Bulls and Miami Heat, who were investigated concurrently for the sign-and-trade that netted them Kyle Lowry, were found to have "violated league rules governing the timing of this season's free agency discussions," and will each be docked their next second-round pick, the league announced Wednesday.
That means the Bulls, in the case of Ball, and the Heat, in the case of Lowry, were found to have contacted representatives of free-agent players prior to Aug. 2, when those discussions were officially allowed to begin.
The Bulls acquired Ball (on a four-year, $80 million contract) from the Pelicans in exchange for Tomáš Satoranský, Garrett Temple and a second-round pick in a transaction that was first reported minutes after the start of the free-agent negotiation window on Aug. 2.
"The Chicago Bulls cooperated completely with the league in its investigation. We are glad this process has concluded and look forward to the rest of our season," the team said in a statement.
The next year the Bulls own their second-round pick is 2026, according to Real GM. Because of stipulations in previous trades, the Bulls owe their 2022 second-round pick to either the Spurs or Kings, their 2023 second-round pick to the Lakers, their 2024 second-round pick to the Pelicans and their 2025 second-round pick to the Spurs. They're also owed the Nuggets' second-round pick in 2023, but only if it falls from 47-60.
All in all, it's a relatively light punishment. A fine of up to $10 million, forfeiture of a first-round pick or the suspension of executives were also reported as potential outcomes.
"I'm obviously, for the organization, happy it's over and done with," Bulls head coach Billy Donovan said of the investigation after the team's Wednesday practice. "Other than knowing that they were looking into things, that's all I really knew about.
"Before anything came out, (Bulls executive vice president) Artūras (Karnišovas) was very transparent with me that this was going on. But just based on the league and the way it was being handled, (he) just wasn’t able to offer me any information. I was out of it regardless, you know what I mean, and I think that was the league protocol. They wanted to handle that with the front office, the organization and just didn’t want them talking to anybody, which I totally understood and was totally fine with. But Artūras, before anything came out publicly, told me, ‘This is what’s going on and they’re going to look into this. I don’t know where it’s going to lead.’ Outside of finding out that it all got put to bed today, in the middle of that I really wasn’t involved at all.’’
Through 22 games, the Bulls sit 14-8 and second in the Eastern Conference. Ball is averaging 12.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.8 steals while shooting 44.4 percent from 3-point range.
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