The Cavaliers and Leon Rose client J.R. Smith reached a deal last week, leaving perhaps the most intriguing free agent negotiations to clients of Rich Paul. The agent who counts LeBron James as his most famous client is also the representative for Tristan Thompson and Norris Cole, who’ve remained in restricted free agency for almost two months. Paul is also the agent for Montrezl Harrell, this year’s No. 32 overall pick, and the Rockets are facing a tricky contract situation with him, as I examined.
Paul is gaining a reputation for dragging out negotiations, and while Thompson, Cole and Harrell aren’t his first clients to stay on the market for months at a time, that hasn’t been the case with everyone he represents. Here’s a look at how free agency has gone in the past for his seven clients currently under contract:
- Eric Bledsoe — No high-profile free agent, outside of Ray Allen, stayed on the market longer last summer than Bledsoe did. He and the Suns didn’t agree to sign his five-year, $70MM contract until September 24th, just days before the start of training camp, and public contentiousness marked the negotiations. The Timberwolves reportedly offered a four-year max deal less than a week before he re-signed with Phoenix.
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — The eighth overall pick from 2013 was with Thad Foucher of the Wasserman Media Group when he signed his rookie scale contract with the Pistons. He’ll become eligible for a rookie scale extension next summer, giving Paul his first crack at negotiating with an NBA team on behalf of the shooting guard.
- LeBron James — James kept the NBA world waiting last summer as he made up his mind about returning to Cleveland, turning the usual flood of early-July transactions into a trickle. Still, he didn’t linger in free agency an inordinately long time, announcing his choice on July 11th, 2014, the same day he put pen to paper. This year, James was reportedly going to put off negotiations until Thompson’s situation was resolved, but that didn’t end up happening, and he re-committed to the Cavs on July 9th before making it official on July 10th.
- Cory Joseph — There was little delay with Joseph, who committed to the Raptors on July 5th and signed on July 9th, the first day after the July Moratorium. The Spurs withdrew their qualifying offer to Joseph shortly before the report that he’d agreed to terms with Toronto, though the timing suggests that Joseph, Paul or someone else from the point guard’s camp told San Antonio about the Raptors deal before it became public knowledge.
- Trey Lyles — Negotiations on rookie scale contracts are almost always straightforward and without fanfare, but that wasn’t the case with Lyles, this year’s No. 12 overall pick. Reports indicated that some complications emerged, and Jody Genessy of The Deseret News explained to Hoops Rumors that they had to do with incentives the Jazz wanted in the contract that Lyles and Paul didn’t. Ultimately, Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey admitted blame for the holdup that caused the forward to miss the first two games of the revived Salt Lake City summer league, an absence that rankled Utah fans.
- Ben McLemore — As with Caldwell-Pope, McLemore wasn’t a client of Paul’s yet when he signed his rookie scale contract with the Kings in 2013. McLemore, whom Sacramento took with the selection before the Pistons drafted Caldwell-Pope, can have Paul negotiate toward a rookie scale extension when he becomes eligible for one next summer.
- Kevin Seraphin — Seraphin and the Wizards didn’t do a rookie scale extension when he was eligible in 2013, setting him up for restricted free agency last year. Paul helped him take a somewhat unconventional route, as he signed his qualifying offer on July 17th, 2014 (though news of the signing didn’t come out until July 18th). Seraphin and Paul had motivation not to drag out talks too long, since the Wizards had the power to unilaterally withdraw the offer, worth a fully guaranteed one-year salary of nearly $3.9MM, anytime through July 23rd. Taking the qualifying offer triggered unrestricted free agency for him this year, and this time he lingered in free agency a bit longer, committing to the Knicks on August 4th before making it official on August 6th.