It was well worth the tampering.
Following a lengthy investigation into the Jalen Brunson signing, the Knicks lost their 2025 second-round pick because, according to the NBA, they “engaged in free agency discussions prior to the date when such discussions were permitted.”
In other words, they pursued Brunson before he was technically a free agent and got off with a slap on the wrist. The punishment is standard for free agency tampering — the Bucks, Heat and Sixers were previously docked a second-round pick per player — and hardly a deterrent.
Brunson, who signed for four years, $104 million, has been a boon to the Knicks and a stabilizing force as their point guard. He was the key to New York’s league-best eight-game winning streak heading into Wednesday, with season averages of 20.8 points and 6.2 assists.
Still, Brunson’s signing raised red flags for the league because the terms were leaked to the media before free agency opened. The tampering lines were also blurred because the Knicks hired Brunson’s father, Rick, prior to free agency, and one of Brunson’s CAA agents is the son of team president Leon Rose.
According to a source, the NBA confiscated the cell phone of at least one Knicks employee during the investigation. The league additionally looked into the hiring of Rick Brunson and the signing Isaiah Hartenstein but found no tampering.
The Knicks fully cooperated, according to the NBA.
During the investigation, Rose, Tom Thibodeau and Brunson were adamant that no tampering took place. On Wednesday, however, Thibodeau declined to comment on the league’s ruling and whether he’s still comfortable with the way the Knicks operated during free agency.
The Mavericks, according to sources, were interested in re-signing Brunson and pitched roughly $106 million over five years before free agency. But after New York’s offer, owner Mark Cuban said he never got an opportunity to counter.
“It really wasn’t about the amount of money,” Cuban said during Summer League. “We really didn’t get a chance to make an offer. It was Jalen’s choice. And I understand it. He knew those guys his entire life. He grew up [in New Jersey]. It makes perfect sense.”
The punishment of a 2025 second-round pick is a small pittance considering such assets can be bought on draft night, and the Knicks still have 11 first rounders and nine second rounders in the next seven drafts.
But this regime has been able to turn 2021 second-round picks into productive players with Miles McBride (36th overall) and Jericho Sims (58th). The Knicks also wasted a second-round pick on Rokas Jokubaitis (34th overall in 2021), who remains overseas and may never get to the NBA.
Source: Berkshire mont