Yesterday, we published the first installment in our look at how agencies fared in this summer's free agency period. Today, we'll be bringing you the second part of that post, focusing on the eight agencies who landed the most overall guaranteed money for their clients in free agency. Before we dive in though, let's revisit a few caveats….
- The info in our free agent tracker is based on contract details that have been reported to date. In some cases, a player has been said to have a partial guarantee on his contract, but we haven't heard specifics on how big that guarantee is. If those details have yet to be reported, we're excluding those players from our calculations, and considering them to be non-guaranteed for now. That includes guys like Ronnie Brewer, Darius Morris, Richard Howell, and Rodney Williams, among others.
- Players who signed overseas, players believed to have accepted non-guaranteed camp invites, and draft picks who signed deals with NBA teams aren't included in this summary. That means, for our purposes, BDA Sports won't get credit for Luke Babbitt's deal in Russia (an international signing), Wasserman Media won't get credit for Fab Melo's deal with the Mavs (reportedly a non-guaranteed camp invite), and Relativity Sports won't get credit for Nick Calathes' deal with the Grizzlies (Memphis held Calathes' draft rights, rather than signing him as a free agent).
- Our overall figures for each agency are based on guaranteed salary, which doesn't include team options, but does include player options and early termination options, since the player is guaranteed that money if he chooses to accept it. The figures in our tracker are also rounded to the nearest thousand, so our totals may not be accurate down to the dollar, but they're very close.
- There are a small handful of 2013 signees whose agents we have yet to confirm, but those guys all signed minimum-salary contracts, so their absence won't have a significant impact our totals.
With those qualifiers in mind, here are the eight agencies who did best in free agency this summer, by our calculations:
Perennial is the last agency on our list to have one big deal account for nearly their entire overall guarantee. But for an agency that only represents a handful of NBA players, this was certainly an eventful offseason. Perennial's other big client, Derrick Favors, is also extension-eligible up until October 31st.
As for Smith's and Morrow's deals themselves, it's worth mentioning a couple details not listed above: Smith's contract includes several unlikely incentives, which could increase the overall value of the deal, while Morrow's contract includes language that reduces his guarantee for 2014/15 if he misses a certain amount of games due to back issues.
A few of Landmark's clients appear to have signed deals worth less than what they might have earned elsewhere. That list includes Iguodala, who reportedly had offers worth $50MM+, and a pair of new Lakers, Chris Kaman and Wesley Johnson. Considering Landmark and agent Rob Pelinka also represent Kobe Bryant, it's likely no coincidence that Kaman and Johnson ended up taking modest, cap-friendly deals to join the Lakers.
ASM has a ton of NBA clients, but this year's free agent class didn't have quite the same amount of starpower as last year's for the agency. Kevin Garnett and Ersan Ilyasova landed big contracts last season, while Serge Ibaka inked a contract extension worth nearly $50MM. This time around, only Teague landed more than mid-level money. Still, Andy Miller and ASM did well to negotiate larger paydays than I would've expected for guys like Hickson, Marreese Speights, and Chauncey Billups.
One oddity related to ASM's deals this summer was the agency's fondness for actual team options. Typically, non-guaranteed seasons take the place of official team options, but the contracts for Timofey Mozgov, Speights, and Billups all include the latter. Perhaps the agency prefers that form of option because decisions are always due by the end of June, which would make clients available for potential suitors at the start of free agency. For non-guaranteed contracts, the player's team often doesn't have to make a decision until later in July.
Like ASM, Mark Bartelstein and his associates at Priority didn't have a marquee free agent hitting the market this summer, but the agency still had a strong offseason. It wouldn't have surprised me to see Calderon and Landry signed for mid-level money, so the fact that each player earned a guaranteed four-year contract worth more than that was impressive. Even the agency's smaller deals, like Will Bynum's, DeMarre Carroll's, and Ronny Turiaf's, were worth slightly more guaranteed money than I would have expected ($5.75MM, $5MM, and $3MM, respectively).
There were at least a couple Priority clients who signed for less than I anticipated, but even then, second-year player options were negotiated into the contracts to allow those players (Mo Williams and Nick Young) to hit the market again next summer, if they so choose.
The Knicks and CAA are often mentioned in the same breath, and for good reason — Carmelo Anthony, Mike Woodson, Andrea Bargnani, C.J. Leslie, and the Smith brothers (J.R. and Chris Smith) are all represented by the agency. But this summer's deals almost suggest that Houston is becoming New York West; CAA clients Omri Casspi, Aaron Brooks, and Ronnie Brewer all signed with the Rockets this offseason.
Of course, focusing on how the agency has a tendency to group its clients on the same teams is burying the lede. The prize jewel of free agency this summer was Paul, who signed for about $20MM more than any other player. CAA would have fared well this offseason without Paul's massive contract, but his $107MM+ guarantee catapults the agency into the summer's top five.
I don't know exactly how negotiations transpired for Wasserman's top free agents this offseason, but on the surface it seems like the agency did an exceptional job getting its clients into their preferred situations. Even though Evans was a restricted free agent, the Kings eventually agreed to sign-and-trade him to New Orleans in a deal that landed another Wasserman client (Greivis Vasquez) in Sacramento. The same sort of thing happened for Redick, who wouldn't have landed an annual salary worth nearly $7MM with the Clippers unless the Bucks had agreed to sign-and-trade him.
Even Splitter's four-year, $36MM contract reportedly came as a result of the Trail Blazers making a similar offer. If the restricted free agent big man had wanted to play in Portland, Wasserman's track record suggests Arn Tellem and company would have made it happen. But Splitter preferred to stay in San Antonio, and ultimately signed outright with the club rather than forcing the Spurs to match a rival offer sheet.
The super-agency formed by Happy Walters and Dan Fegan finished a close second in our free agent rankings, but had we included rookie-scale extensions, Relativity Sports would have blown away its competition. Both John Wall and Larry Sanders are Relativity clients, and their new long-term deals would bring the agency's total guaranteed money this summer to well over $300MM.
Still, even just taking into account free agency, Relativity made out well. Howard gave up some guaranteed money by leaving Los Angeles, and Ellis may have done the same (albeit before he joined Relativity) by turning down an extension from the Bucks. But Martell Webster's four-year contract with the Wizards was one of the surprises of the offseason, and few players did better in free agency than Keith Bogans, who will earn more than $5MM in guaranteed money in 2013/14. Unusual CBA rules and plenty of luck played roles in Bogans' deal, but it's still a feather in Relativity's cap.
Agency: Excel Sports Management
Notable deals: Nikola Pekovic, Timberwolves (5/$60MM); Al Jefferson, Bobcats (3/$40.5MM); Brandon Jennings, Pistons (3/$24MM); Kyle Korver, Hawks (4/$24MM)
Overall guaranteed money: $185.738MM
It wasn't a perfect summer for Jeff Schwartz and Excel Sports, but considering Pekovic's $60MM guarantee was only the third-highest among free agents this offseason, it's impressive that they finished atop our list. It's also the second straight huge summer for the agency, which saw Deron Williams and Blake Griffin ink max deals a year ago.
While Pekovic and Korver were among Excel's big signees who remained with their previous teams, the agency pursued unexpected opportunties for many of its other free agents. Very few people would have predicted that Jefferson would land in Charlotte, or that Jarrett Jack would sign with the Cavs, but both players received lucrative multiyear contracts with those clubs. Throw in the fact that Excel landed No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett, and it's hard to make the case that many agencies had a better summer.