OKC Thunder and small markets set to benefit from new NBA tampering rules

OKC Thunder trade of Paul George. LAC intro with Doc Rivers, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and owner Steve Ballmer (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
OKC Thunder trade of Paul George. LAC intro with Doc Rivers, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and owner Steve Ballmer (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
Former OKC Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images) /

Tampering became a major issue this season leading to the NBA’s decision to upgrade rules and increase fines. The OKC Thunder were among the teams who suffered the greatest losses so they should be thrilled by this revelation.

This offseason free agent superstars took to social media announcing plans to sign with new clubs, however many of those posts came well before the moratorium began. This punctuated how teams, players and agents are all but ignoring the tampering rules and led to the NBA seeking to implement stricter rules including much heavier fines. Of the teams hit hardest, it’s difficult not to cite the OKC Thunder and Toronto Raptors.

Specifically, the loss of Paul George and his trade demand along with Kawhi Leonard‘s management team requesting unusual and illegal benefits hit their former clubs hard. Other teams in the mix were the New Orleans Pelicans (Anthony Davis) and ironically the Lakers (again – see Kawhi Leonard) all dealt with situations where tampering played a role in where superstars ultimately landed.

The components presented in the League memo featured a plan to deter clubs, players and agents from tampering. On Friday, September 20, the League’s Board of Governors unanimously approved the proposed changes.

Two specific items in the memo seem to be directly related to the aforementioned clubs. For example, one of the proposed changes as per ESPN appears directly related to Paul George and Anthony Davis.

"Prohibiting players from inducing players under contract to request trades."

Notably, Anthony Davis trade demands and the Lakers leaks made for an awkward year in New Orleans. Yet, that paled in comparison to how Kawhi Leonard kept three teams in limbo awaiting his decision which didn’t come until six days after most free agents had already let their intentions public.

Another seems directly related to the Raptors and Lakers losing out on Kawhi Leonard whose camp reportedly asked for items deemed illegal as per the current rules and Collective Bargaining Agreement:

"A requirement that a team report, within 24 hours, any instance of an agent or player representative asking for a benefit that is not allowed under the salary cap or collective bargaining agreement (“unauthorized benefits”)"

Moreover, Leonard not only contacted other free agents seeking to have them join him in L.A. but he and the Clippers brass also reached out to players currently under contract to persuade them to request a trade. The main player in this equation was obviously Paul George.