Agents influence the NBA more than referees, coaches and general managers.
They control player movement, impacting which organizations land the sport's eight or nine biggest stars. They are constantly in the ear of just about every media member, flowing rumors and behind-the-scenes bits of information that sway the public opinion on a weekly basis.
Agents are in it for the money, sure, but they're also in it for the power. And in the never-ending tug of war between owners and players to try and grab as much control of the league as they can, agents sway the tide as much as anyone.
Knowing who represents which players can be a significant factor in predicting who ends up where and how much money they could be rewarded.
Whenever a player signs an unjustifiable contract, we always look at the team and criticize its primary decision-maker. Instead, try saying something nice about the player's representation.
Agents are engaged stakeholders in everything NBA. Here are the five most powerful; the guys who make it all come together.
All representation and financial information via HoopsHype.
Rich Paul doesn't have dozens of clients making millions of dollars who qualify for the All-Star Game year after year. It's arguable, as reported in this ESPN The Magazine profile, that he doesn't even have the respect of his peers.
What Paul does have, however, is the world's greatest player as a client.
Paul represents LeBron James, which is like heading into a meeting with the world's wealthiest businessmen while holding a $10 billion lottery ticket in your hand. In other words, he has the golden egg. And what he does with it moving forward could decide just how influential an agent he can become.
James isn't his only client.
Paul also represents Eric Bledsoe, a soon-to-be free agent whose financial value is subject to some of the most interesting conversations in the league. If Paul hits a home run with Bledsoe's next deal, more players will sign to his Klutch Sports Management company.
With a firm spot inside LeBron's head, Paul is one NBA person you should probably know more about.
With one of the league's most controversial figures, Dwight Howard, as his star client, Dan Fegan has surely had his work cut out for him over the past couple years.
That hasn't stopped him from piling on the work load, taking DeMarcus Cousins, another troubled big man, on as a client earlier this year. He also represents Ricky Rubio, an international megastar Fegan should have no issue getting big bucks for when the time comes.
In total, he represents 26 players, including John Wall and Ty Lawson, and has made them all more than $133 million this season alone.
But while others are busy worrying about where Howard will end up, Fegan will likely spend a good chunk of his time this summer negotiating a new contract for Howard's partner in the frontcourt, Earl Clark.
Clark's rookie deal is up this summer, and he's shown an ability to knock down an open jumper (under the lights of Los Angeles) and impact the game away from the ball on both sides of the court. Clark is due a good chunk of change.
How much will be up to Dan Fegan.
Popularly known as Kobe Bryant's agent, Rob Pelinka is much, much more.
Apart from representing the highest-paid player in the game, he's one of the most powerful agents in basketball. Kevin Durant and James Harden will take him into the future after Bryant retires.
But along with those three, Pelinka's influence elsewhere should be watched closely (he represents 17 other players).
Andre Iguodala has a player option that he'll likely exercise this summer. He's a client of Pelinka's and should stand to see a serious long-term payday in light of the four-year, $40 million deal Gerald Wallace (another Pelinka guy) just signed with the Brooklyn Nets.
Pelinka also maxed out Eric Gordon with the New Orleans Hornets the summer after he played just nine games. He stands to earn a big payday on O.J. Mayo's behalf in the months ahead as well.
If you still doubt Pelinka's place on this list, know that he convinced the notoriously frugal Chicago Bulls to pay Carlos Boozer $75 million.
The guy is really good at what he does.
Jeff Schwartz can proudly say he works directly for some of the most popular names in basketball.
Paul Pierce is a client, as is Deron Williams, Blake Griffin and Brandon Jennings. In a contract year, Jennings surprised people around the league by leaving Bill Duffy at BDA Sports Management last month and signing with Schwartz.
He represents a grand total of 34 players, seven of them All-Stars at one time. But his work on behalf of some of the league's lesser fellows is what makes him so popular with the players.
How's Michael Beasley's contract working out for the Phoenix Suns right now? Pretty terribly. But it's going great for Schwartz, who has Beasley as a client.
After ending last season in Dallas as embarrassingly badly as any player could, Lamar Odom was given $8.2 million by the Los Angeles Clippers over the summer. It was only for one year, sure, but the deal is a gross overpay from a financial standpoint. Schwartz negotiated it.
With Al Jefferson, Nikola Pekovic and Jarrett Jack all entering free agency this summer, Schwartz should be the most important man in deciding what the market looks like for big men and scoring guards off the bench.
His influence is undeniable.
He has the most NBA clients (45), the most All-Stars (12) and twice as many maxed-out deals as any other agent (six). The guaranteed money his players are scheduled to earn is a smidge over $80 million more than the next agent.
So basically there's Arn Tellem, and then there's everybody else.
Derrick Rose, the Gasol brothers, LaMarcus Aldridge, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, the Lopez brothers and Al Horford are all clients.
And for a hint at some of the contracts he's fought for, look no further than the offensively limited DeAndre Jordan getting paid eight figures and Kendrick Perkins signing for long-term money after tearing his ACL.
Is Kris Humphries worth $12 million? Of course not. But Tellem thought he was, so that's what Humphries is getting paid.
In the short term, Milwaukee Bucks shooting guard J.J. Redick is one of Tellem's clients, and he's also seeking a new contract this summer.
Speculation has already spread about Redick's worth and how much he should be paid on the open market. But with Tellem and the Wasserman Media Group negotiating the deal, don't be surprised if Redick gets guaranteed at least $40 million.