NBA issues 'early contact' penalties against Bulls, Heat for Lonzo Ball, Kyle Lowry deals

The Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat will each have to forfeit a future second-round draft pick for violating the NBA's "early contract" rules during free agency this past August, the league announced on Wednesday.

"The NBA announced today that the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat each violated league rules governing the timing of this season’s free agency discussions and that the league has directed that each team’s next available second-round draft pick be forfeited," the NBA's two-sentence statement on the matter began.

The league draws a distinction between early offseason contact with impending free agents and violations of anti-tampering rules that prevent teams from contacting players under contract with their opponents.

Details of their respective sign-and-trade deals for Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry were reported the moment free agency opened at 6 p.m. ET on Aug. 2. League rules bar negotiations before the start of free agency. Given the machinations required to execute the complicated transactions for Ball and Lowry, it was actually impossible for the Bulls and Heat to iron out all the necessary details of those agreements in mere seconds.

The Bulls acquired Ball on a four-year, $80 million contract from the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Garrett Temple, Tomas Satoransky and a 2024 second-round pick. The Pelicans, Ball and Temple, who got a three-year, $15.5 million contract out of the deal, all had to separately approve details of the transaction.

Likewise, the Heat received Lowry on a three-year, $85 million contract from the Toronto Raptors in return for Goran Dragić and Precious Achiuwa, the precise package ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski signaled on the eve of free agency. Everyone knew the exact sign-and-trade deal before any of it could even be discussed.

The Miami Heat's sign-and-trade deal to acquire Kyle Lowry will cost them an extra second-round pick. (Mark Brown/Getty Images)
The Miami Heat's sign-and-trade deal to acquire Kyle Lowry will cost them an extra second-round pick. (Mark Brown/Getty Images)

"While we disagree, we accept the league's decision," the Heat said in an abbreviated statement released on Wednesday, shortly after the league handed down its penalties. "We are moving on with our season."

It is unclear on what grounds the Heat could disagree with the NBA's determination, other than widespread belief that every team skirts the league's "early contact" rules. Except, the immediate announcement of a sign-and-trade package is a more blatant violation than an unrestricted free agent taking a deal in seconds.

The NBA also rescinded the Milwaukee Bucks' 2022 second-round pick after finding evidence of early contact with restricted free agent Bogdan Bogdanović in 2020. Details of a sign-and-trade deal between the Bucks and Sacramento Kings, which ultimately fell apart, were public days before free agency opened.

Whereas the Bucks failed to land Bogdanovic (and won the championship anyway), the Bulls and Heat succeeded in respectively landing Ball and Lowry, both major contributors to their new teams' second- and third-place positions in the Eastern Conference standings — well worth the additional second-round picks.

– – – – – – –

Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach