Ranking Every Big-Time NBA Agent's Performance in Free Agency Thus Far
You've undoubtedly read dozens of articles ranking and grading the NBA's biggest free agents, but probably not so many ranking actual NBA agents—the player representatives themselves. Which is why this is here.
It's easy to get caught up in the fun and craziness of free agency and forget about the agents. They're not exactly a fan's top concern. But they have about just as much sway on the free-agency process as the players and franchises themselves do, making them very, very important.
A good agent means everything to NBA players, and we've seen quite a few good ones securing contracts for their clients this year. The only question now is: Who's been the best?
8. Wallace Prather
Top Clients: Josh Smith (four years, $54 million)
Josh Smith's deal with the Detroit Pistons is pretty ordinary, but probably not for the reasons you'd think.
The deal itself—four years and $54 million—isn't all that bad. Smith is maybe a touch underpaid, but that's understandable considering how terrified most teams seem to be of venturing deep into the dreaded luxury tax. The real problem is that the Detroit Pistons are a terrible fit for him. Terrible.
The Pistons' two best players (not including Smith) are Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, and those two are almost certain to start at the 4 and 5 this season. That puts Smith at the 3, a position he played fairly well in spells last season, per 82games.com. But it's not a spot he can excel at in Detroit.
Drummond has no shot whatsoever, and while Monroe has developed his mid-range shot, he's far from a perimeter threat. In fact, almost no one on the Pistons is. Smith might, by necessity, spend his time in Detroit doing the very thing that led to him wearing out his welcome in Atlanta—taking tons of perimeter jump shots.
Unless the Pistons plan on trading Monroe or Drummond, it's hard to see another role for Smith offensively. It's an awful fit—just look at his shot chart from last year for crying out loud, per NBA.com.
Smith was one of the three most sought-after players coming into free agency, and though the money is right on his deal, the team he chose definitely is not. Maybe that can't be blamed on Wallace Prather—he did get Smith a nice payday. But Smith's fit with the Pistons is too questionable to rank Prather any higher.
7. Mark Bartelstein
Top Clients: Carl Landry (four years, $27 million), Jose Calderon (four years, $29 million)
Mark Bartelstein didn't have any true stars in free agency, but he did help Carl Landry and Jose Calderon snag long-term deals, and that's enough to land him on this list.
Landry's deal is probably the most interesting considering how many similar players are already on the Sacramento Kings' roster—they are already paying Chuck Hayes, DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson. Still, though, Landry should be a decent fit and is probably being paid a little above his market value, so it's hard to complain too much about the deal.
Calderon's deal with the Dallas Mavericks is even better.
Getting a four-year deal for a 31-year-old like Calderon is a coup, and he fits well with the Mavs as well. Calderon is an outstanding passer and spot-up shooter, and he should finally give Dallas the steady point guard play it has missed since Jason Kidd left.
And if that's not enough to convince you that Bartelstein had a decent offseason, another of his clients, Ronny Turiaf, signed a two-year, $3 million deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
6. David Lee
Top Clients: Andrew Bynum (two years, incentive-based $24 million)
It's hard to give David Lee a great ranking since Andrew Bynum's contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers is far from a home run. But considering everything working against Lee, he did a fairly nice job all the same.
Only $6 million of Bynum's deal is actually guaranteed the first year—the rest is all incentive-based. Additionally, the second year is a team option. So if Bynum doesn't produce close to like he did in 2011-12, then the Cavs can just kick him to the curb, per Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
Bynum's talented and probably a top-20 player when he's both healthy and motivated. But he's got a laundry list of red flags.
He's constantly injured, he seems to be uncoachable and he allegedly hates basketball, per CBS Philly's Spike Eskin. It can't be easy securing a contract that could be worth $12 million per year for a guy like that, no matter how talented he is.
Plus, when you think about it, a short, incentive-based contract is probably the best way to motivate Bynum and snag a bigger deal for him later on down the road. After all, he's still only 25 years old.
5. Rob Pelinka
Top Clients: Andre Iguodala (four years, $48 million), O.J. Mayo (three years, $24 million)
Andre Iguodala was Rob Pelinka's biggest client in this year's free agency, and his deal with the Golden State Warriors is the main reason why Pelinka ranks so highly.
In March, Iguodala told Fox Sports Florida's Chris Tomasson that he was likely to opt out of his deal with the Denver Nuggets and look for long-term security, and he found it with the Warriors. The money is about right for a player of Iguodala's caliber, but what's more important here is the fit.
Iguodala's going to be fantastic in Golden State, serving as the Warriors' best wing defender off the bat (sorry, Draymond Green), helping them fulfill their small-ball destiny and basically acting as the same glue guy he was in Denver.
O.J. Mayo's deal with the Milwaukee Bucks is also solid, though not quite what Iguodala's is.
Mayo's not the perfect fit for the Bucks (though he will provide them with some much-needed wing shooting), but $8 million per year is a huge amount for a guard like him. Mayo's not a bad player, but he's more or less an outside shooter with limited playmaking abilities who has probably already plateaued. Eight million is a lot for a guy like that.
Throw in Chris Kaman's one-year, $3 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, and Pelinka had himself quite an offseason.
4. Leon Rose
Top Clients: Chris Paul (five years, $107 million), J.R. Smith (four years, $25 million)
Leon Rose had just two major clients to represent during free agency—J.R. Smith and Chris Paul—and he did an excellent job with both of them.
Chris Paul's massive deal with the Los Angeles Clippers was a no-brainer. They offered the most guaranteed money, a championship-caliber roster that Paul is mostly familiar with and a championship coach to boot. Hard to beat that.
Smith's deal is a little more tricky to judge, but it's ultimately still very good.
Honestly, when you consider the deals that guys like Kyle Korver (four years, $24 million) and O.J. Mayo (three years, $24 million) received, Smith's deal seems a bit under market value. And maybe it is.
But there's no way that Smith was getting the $10 million per year that he apparently wanted, via the New York Post's Marc Berman, and the length of his deal negates what little more he might have gotten playing somewhere else.
Plus, Smith belongs on the New York Knicks. He loves playing in New York, the fans there love him and he gives the Knicks an extremely dangerous off-the-bounce threat. When Smith stays aggressive and gets to the rim, the Knicks can beat anybody.
3. Dan Fegan
Top Clients: Dwight Howard (four years, $88 million), Kevin Martin (four years, $28 million)
Dan Fegan didn't have the most players signed, but he still had one of the best performances of any NBA agent.
The two biggest players Fegan represents—Dwight Howard and Kevin Martin—were signed for good money to teams they fit well on. That's no small feat.
Howard was the crown jewel of this year's free-agent crop, and though he ended up taking less guaranteed money than he would have with the Los Angeles Lakers, there's no question that the Houston Rockets are a better fit for him.
Howard is a pick-and-roll machine. Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant both run the pick-and-roll well, but the Lakers don't have the shooters to make it truly deadly. Houston has those and maybe the best young pick-and-roll player in the league in James Harden.
There are a few concerns with the Howard-Houston pairing, namely whether Howard will bend to playing at the Rockets' breakneck pace. But the benefits to Howard being in Houston far outweigh things like that.
Martin is also in a great spot with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Not only is his deal pretty lavish considering he's 30 years old, but he provides elite outside shooting (42.6 percent from three last season) to a team that had very little of it last year.
Minnesota has struggled over the last few seasons trying to find a player to plug into the 2, and Martin's off-ball excellence makes him a good fit with Ricky Rubio and Alexey Shved.
The Washington Wizards even re-signed another of Fegan's clients, Martell Webster, to a four-year, $22 million contract to do little more than stand in the corner and knock down threes.
2. Jeff Schwartz
Top Clients: Al Jefferson (three years, $41 million), Jarrett Jack (four years, $25 million)
Jeff Schwartz represents a couple of this offseason's big free agents—Nikola Pekovic, Kyle Korver and Jarrett Jack, to name a few—and he's done a great job with just about all of them. But to show how excellent Schwartz has been this offseason, let's focus on just one of his clients: Al Jefferson.
The Charlotte Bobcats signed Jefferson to a three-year, $41 million deal. That's a staggering number when you consider Jefferson's defensive limitations (to put it bluntly, he's terrible) and the fact that his superior frontcourt mate, Paul Millsap, was only able to snag a two-year, $19 million deal from the Atlanta Hawks.
Jefferson's a good offensive player but so poor defensively that his teams are almost always better with him off the court. Last season, the Utah Jazz were actually nine points per 100 possessions better when Jefferson rode the bench, per 82games.com—absolutely crazy when you consider how much he's paid.
And what's funny is despite all that, Jefferson is likely to succeed in Charlotte anyway.
The Bobcats' need for a high-usage player who can rebound and score with reasonable efficiency is so glaring that Jefferson's deficiencies don't even matter. If there's a city willing to overlook Jefferson's slow feet and clumsy close-outs, it's Charlotte, which is pretty much starved for NBA talent right now.
Schwartz has done well by other players—Pekovic appears set to be signed to a massive extension, per Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, and Jarrett Jack is going to have some fun years with the Cleveland Cavaliers. But Jefferson's deal with the Bobcats is by far his best work and the reason he's so high up on this list.
1. Arn Tellem
Top Clients: Tyreke Evans (four years, $44 million), Tiago Splitter (four years, $36 million)
Arn Tellem. Still the undisputed king.
Seemingly every one of the players Tellem represents were free agents this season, so let's go through the deals he helped negotiate.
Tellem helped Tyreke Evans—a wing who can't shoot and statistically peaked his rookie season—snag a four-year, $44 million deal from the New Orleans Pelicans. He got the San Antonio Spurs, notoriously shrewd with their money, to commit $36 million to Tiago Splitter.
J.J. Redick, a spectacular wing shooter, landed a four-year, $27 million deal with a championship contender needing wing shooters in the Los Angeles Clippers. Ditto with Mike Dunleavy and the Chicago Bulls (though he obviously didn't get $27 million). Dorell Wright and Jermaine O'Neal even landed decent short-term deals with the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors, respectively.
Every one of Tellem's biggest clients ended up with a fair (or even lopsided) deal and a team that fit them well. Can't give him anything but the No. 1 spot.
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