The NBA Draft is rapidly approaching with each team making its final preparations. However, when scouring over mock drafts and examining the draft order it is clear there is something different this year. The 2022 NBA Draft has just 58 picks this year rather than the traditional 60. While it is common for draft picks to change hands several times through trades, it is rare for there to be an absence of a pick.
It is not the first time that the NBA has stripped a team of its draft pick. This punishment began taking place in 1975 when the New York Knicks were stripped of a selection for illegally signing a free agent. The most severe punishment occurred in 2005 when the Minnesota Timberwolves were stripped of five first-round picks. This was caused by them signing free agent Joe Smith to a perceived bargain deal with it later coming out there was a deal in place behind the scenes for a larger sum of money. This tricky move to get around the cap issues was justifiably punished severely.
While the violations were not nearly as egregious this current season, the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls were each stripped of their second-round picks due to tampering violations.
ESPN Sources: The NBA will make Chicago and Miami forfeit their next available second-round draft pick over findings in probe into early contact in summer free agency. Probe was centered on Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry sign and trades.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 1, 2021
Why the 2022 NBA Draft only has 58 picks
The violation that occurred dates back to the last offseason. Free agency opened up on August 2nd at 6 PM EST. After an investigation by the NBA, it was determined that both teams made contact with their free-agent targets before the legal window to do so.
For Kyle Lowry he signed a three-year $85 million deal with the Heat last offseason. This occurred in a sign-and-trade with the Raptors in which the Heat sent back Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa. Lonzo Ball was also acquired through a sign-and-trade. The then Pelicans guard was sent to the Bulls in exchange for Garrett Temple, Tomas Satoransky, a 2024 second-round pick, and cash considerations.
The penalty is lighter than it could have been. The organizations also could have been hit with fines, executive suspensions, and additional picks. It was reported that each team fully cooperated with the investigation and that this was taken into account when determining the punishment. While there is an argument that the sign-and-trade would make the transaction in the gray area, the fact of the matter is the NBA holds authority.
It is disappointing to see two fewer draft picks being made, but this is unlikely to be a slap on the wrist that truly deters teams. In the end, each team got their guy just as they hoped. Some complain that the players are the ones truly being punished as they lose the chance to hear their name called on draft day. In reality, late selections oftentimes have better opportunities as an undrafted free agent. It is difficult for a second-round rookie to secure a place on an NBA roster. Having the choice of which team is in need of their skillset can give them a better chance at career success.
The Chicago Bulls still hold the 18th overall pick in the draft. The Miami Heat hold possession of the 27th overall pick in the draft. Each team is sure to put a larger focus on this as it is their sole selection. It is admirable that the NBA is making an effort to cut down on the rule-bending that many teams attempt. However, until the punishment becomes a bigger hit to the teams in violation it is unlikely these attempts are stopped.