Tampering is common in the NBA, but proving it is very difficult

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Want proof there is tampering in the NBA: Free agency starts on July 1 at midnight Eastern every year, and every year a number of new contracts for players with new teams are announced at 12:01 a.m. There is no way that a complicated NBA contract — even one where the two sides are both interested and will agree quickly on the price — is negotiated faster than it takes to get an In-N-Out Burger (or Five Guys burger, if you prefer the inferior).

Those deals are announced that fast because everything’s already been agreed to through back channels. Same with meetings when a major (or even mediocre) free agent starts talking to teams on July 1. Yet, the NBA rarely investigates, and even more rarely punishes a team for tampering. Why? Because it’s very difficult to prove.

The Lakers are being investigated for tampering with Paul George while he was under contract to the Indiana Pacers, an investigation reportedly started at the request of Pacers’ owner Herb Simon. Teams are not allowed to recruit or entice players under contract. The Lakers have denied any wrongdoing. Lakers president Magic Johnson went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and, with a wink, joked about what he’d tell George if they met this summer, and that ticked Simon off. The Pacers had to trade George, and because everyone around the league knows he more likely than not is a Laker next summer (long before Magic went on TV), his trade value was diminished. The Pacers got back Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for him the day before free agency opened (although there may have been better offers on the table, and the choice and timing were odd). The Pacers think if there is an agreement in place between the Lakers and George that would have driven down the trade market (because he was a one-year rental, that market was already depressed).

Good luck proving tampering. Unless Magic did something stupid like text George directly, it will be almost impossible to prove.

NBA agents and front offices know how to avoid tampering using “back channels” — not unlike how governments who are public enemies still communicate. Someone, a couple of people removed from the agent/GM, can talk with someone a couple of people removed from the other side and set something up that gets brought back and agreed to. Or, an agent can have one of his other players do some of the work for him — players recruit each other all the time on social media (and off it), and the league doesn’t see that as tampering, unless specifically ordered by a GM/owner. James Harden recruited Chris PaulDraymond Green and other Warriors recruited Kevin Durant, and the league shrugged, but GM Bob Myers could not have done that (or directed the players to do that… again, good luck proving it if you think he did).

There are a few reasons it will be hard to prove the Lakers did anything. First, the Lakers’ GM Rob Pelinka is a former agent and knows how to work the system — he’s not getting caught. Look what another agent told Kevin O’Connor at The Ringer.

“Pelinka for sure knows how to tamper without getting caught,” one agent told me. “Pelinka will do whatever it takes to get players. Magic could easily have done something dumb and got caught for it, though.”

To prove tampering, Magic needs to have left a “paper trail,” which more accurately is a digital trail of texts or emails. But even that can get tricky. If Magic was texting with George’s agent Aaron Mintz that alone proves nothing, he also represents Julius Randle on the Lakers and D'Angelo Russell, who the Lakers traded a week before the George trade. It will take an email or text specifically talking about George for the Lakers to get in trouble, and Magic is smarter than that. Well, we think he is.

The bottom line is tampering is common and almost impossible to prove. Unless Magic screwed up, it will be unprovable here. Maybe the Pacers made their point, maybe Simon feels better, but it’s hard to see how this is going to be tampering.

Report: Mavericks trade up with Hawks for Luka Doncic at No. 3

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The Mavericks reportedly targeted Luka Doncic.

They’ll get him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Evaluating this trade hinges on the full protections of the future first-round pick, but Doncic is worth plenty.

He’s so skilled – as a ball-handler, passer and shooter. Doncic won’t singlehandedly transform Dallas, but he pairs nicely with Dennis Smith Jr. long-term. Doncic should also help in the short-term, which Dallas isn’t sacrificing.

The Hawks might have preferred Trae Young, a favorite of Atlanta ownership. Perhaps, the Hawks bluffed their way into this trade. If so, that’s a nice move by them. Young, with his passing and shooting, is an impressive prospect in his own right. This will push Dennis Schroder even further onto the trade market.

The Grizzlies made this trade possible by taking Jaren Jackson Jr. No. 4. He apparently came around on Memphis.

Kings select Marvin Bagley III with No. 2 overall pick in 2018 NBA Draft

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The Sacramento Kings have made a sensible pick in the 2018 NBA draft. After the Phoenix Suns selected DeAndre Ayton No. 1 overall, it was up to the Kings to do something that wouldn’t set their franchise back.

Despite rumors that Sacramento had began to favor Michael Porter Jr., on Thursday night. the Kings took Duke University standout Marvin Bagley III.

Adding Bagley to their rotation of young, switchable wing players was a solid move for Sacramento. Bagley measures in at 6-foot-11 and 234 pounds, making him a power forward for the Kings.. He will likely need to learn for a year behind veteran Zach Randolph, and should be an interesting addition to the frontcourt of Willie Cauley-Stein, Harry Giles, and Skal Labissiere.

The Phoenix, Arizona native was a scorer for the Blue Devils during his one year in college, nabbing ACC Player of the Year honors as a freshman while scoring 21 points per game.

The Kings have a slate of young guard prospects as well, including Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox, and Bogdan Bogdanovic.

Sacramento hasn’t won more than 35 games since the 2007-2008 season, and no doubt they are expecting that Bagley will add a scoring punch to their young core. More than anything, Sacramento needs this pick to go somewhat right as they continue to try to rebuild after the Isaiah Thomas / DeMarcus Cousins era.

Suns select Deandre Ayton with No. 1 overall pick in 2018 draft

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First in alphabetical introductions, DeAndre Ayton took center stage at a new pre-NBA draft ceremony with his parents. As he walked right down the middle of two rows of adoring children, Ayton extended his 7-foot-5 wingspan to high-five them on both sides. Then, he took his mother’s hand and helped her down the stairs.

Length and touch.

That – plus strength, shooting touch and hops – is why the Suns made him their first No. 1 overall pick in their 51-year history a few minutes later.

Ayton is the right pick, but hardly a surefire star. With his physical package and shooting ability, it’d be hard for him to fail completely in the NBA. But he is terrifyingly unprepared as a rim protector – a nearly essential skill for centers.

He’ll join a Phoenix team trying to end a franchise-high eight-year playoff drought, though Ayton won’t be starting from scratch. Devin Booker, implicitly and explicitly, screamed out for help. Ayton delivers it in a big way.

The Suns also have Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss. It’d be nice if any of them pan out. But Phoenix also has all its own future first-round picks plus two extra first-rounders from the Heat.

This is a team on the rise, and the Suns will have other chances to add to their young talent base.

But they’ll probably never have a better opportunity than this.

2018 NBA Draft pick-by-pick tracker with analysis of selections, trades

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It’s been a long time since there was this much uncertainty at the top of an NBA Draft. While the top pick is a lock, and even No. 2 may have fallen into place, things are wide open after that with plenty of talk about trades up and down — and teams looking to move into the lottery. The NBA rumor mill has been in high gear.

Now the floodgates of wild are about to be thrown open.

Right here is the best place to follow all of it. Just keep hitting refresh all night.

We will constantly be updating this post throughout the evening — every pick, every trade — complete with analysis of how that player fits (or doesn’t) with his new surroundings. We’ll be on top of news, rumors, and anything else happening around the NBA tonight. Enough with the preamble…

It’s time to put the Phoenix Suns on the clock.

 
Suns small icon 1. The Phoenix Suns: DeAndre Ayton, 7’0” center (Arizona). Physically, he has the potential to be one of the game’s dominant centers — he’s big and long (7’5” wingspan), he moves incredibly well, he can knock down threes, and he can run the court. Offensively he’s going to be put up numbers and be an impact player from Day 1. If he puts in the work when challenged on his defense he could be a force on both ends. He could be the franchise cornerstone the Suns need, the inside to Devin Booker‘s outside.

 
Kings small icon 2. Sacramento Kings: Marvin Bagley III, 6’11” forward/center (Duke). One of the best athletes in the draft and a natural scorer, he’s going to be able to get buckets in the NBA. He’s got a great bounce (an amazing second jump), attacks the glass, can finish at the rim and shot 40 percent from three for the Blue Devils. The question is can he defend — he showed poor defensive instincts and Mike Krzyzewski had to play zone at Duke last season because Bagley (and Carter) could not handle pick-and-roll coverages. He’s got to get better on that end to reach his NBA potential.

WE HAVE A TRADE: As had been rumored for a while, the Dallas Mavericks are trading with the Atlanta Hawks — the Mavericks have wanted Doncic and the Hawks will take him at No. 3, then the Mavericks will take Trae Young at No. 5 and that will complete the trade. (The Hawks had pushed to get more picks or dump salary in this deal, but ultimately took what they could get.

 
Hawks small icon 3. Atlanta Hawks: Luka Doncic, 6’8” point/forward (Slovenia). He will not play for the Hawks, he will be traded to the Dallas Mavericks (selecting No. 5). Doncic is the most decorated European player ever to enter the NBA Draft (EuroLeague champion and MVP, ACB champion and MVP), he is a phenom off the pick-and-roll and a great playmaker in transition. He has shooting range from the NBA three and he can finish inside. He’s been putting up numbers against men in Europe, he should adapt to the NBA fairly quickly. The doubts are he’s not an elite athlete, not explosive by NBA standards. Can he defend well enough at this level, and how will he handle being guarded by those kinds of athletes?

 
Grizzlies small icon 4. Memphis Grizzlies: Jaren Jackson Jr., 6’11” forward/center (Michigan St.). Has the look and game of the prototypical modern NBA center — he’s got a great wingspan (7’5”) and uses that to protect the rim and block shots. He’s a good shooter out to the arc, can finish inside with either hand. He’s got to learn to play consistently harder and be better on the glass — it’s not all highlight plays, but he’s one of the youngest players in the draft and will grow. Needs to improve his passing as well. Son of 13-year NBA vet Jaren Jackson.

 
Mavericks small icon 5. Dallas Mavericks: Trae Young, 6’2” point guard (Oklahoma). He will not be Maverick, he will be traded to the Atlanta Hawks (for Luka Doncic and a future first-round pick). Young is a fan favorite for many because he has Stephen Curry-like range on his three out to 30 feet, plus he’s a gifted passer who sees the floor incredibly well. Scouts mostly like him, but there is some concern he’s got more Jimmer Fredette in him than Curry. Young has to learn to manage the game, not be so turnover prone. The bigger issues are defensively, he’s not big and not an elite NBA athlete like many guys he’ll be asked to guard — and his defense was poor at Oklahoma. Can he stay playable in an NBA of switching defenses?

 
Magic small icon 6: Orlando Magic: