We are still nearly three months away from the NBA Draft, but already the contours of what figures to be a talented and consequential group are taking shape.
Back at the NBA’s trade deadline in February, several execs with assets to deal found themselves at a loss because most teams simply would not give up 2017 first-round picks, even for quality players. The Suns were thinking they could get a first-rounder for P.J. Tucker, and the Sixers thought the same about Nerlens Noel. No such luck, however. This draft is just considered to be too good.
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Before we get there, though, the touted players involved will make some important decisions, starting with their agents. That can be influential in where the players wind up — agents who have top-shelf pre-draft programs can boost their players’ stock by a handful of picks, sometimes making the difference between the lottery and the 20s.
Sporting News talked to multiple sources to see where current NBA prospects are on their decisions about picking agents. Players are frequently make last-minute changes, and many have not yet made a decision, but here’s the current intel on where college players stand on their agent choices.
Markelle Fultz, Washington:There are, of course, several agents in the mix for Fultz, who could very well be the No. 1 pick this year. But the name that has come up most often is Raymond Brothers, a respected veteran who has mostly older clients, including Zach Randolph and Tony Allen.
Lonzo Ball, UCLA:Any agent he hires is going to have to navigate the tight waters between NBA teams and his outspoken dad, LaVar Ball. The consensus among agents, and pretty much as expressed by LaVar Ball, is that Ball will hire an attorney— a source said that would be Harrison Gaines of SLASH Sports —strictly for contracts and let his father do the negotiating otherwise. There’s some risk to that, and Ball would be wise to ensure he has an NBA-level pre-draft program in place.
Josh Jackson, Kansas:Jackson has been getting a lot of buzz as a potential No. 1 lately, especially if a team that doesn’t need a point guard lands with the top pick. Darren Matsubara of Wasserman Sports is a candidate, as well as LeBron James’ agent, Klutch Sports’ Rich Paul.
De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky:Fox helped himself immensely during the NCAA tournament, and his two appearances against Lonzo Ball — he was the better player both times — bolstered his stock. He is said to be going with agent Happy Walters of Catalyst Sports, whose client list includes Jimmy Butler.
Jayson Tatum, Duke:Tatum has an outside shot at winding up the No. 1 pick, which could be good news for Jeff Wechsler of 24/7 Sports. Wechsler represented Larry Hughes during his career, and Hughes is Tatum’s godfather. It’s rumored that Tatum could wind up with Wechsler, who has another No. 1 pick, Kyrie Irving, on his roster and is also in the mix for Bam Adebayo of Kentucky.
Dennis Smith Jr., North Carolina State:Smith is likely to be a top-10 pickand is being pursued by top agencies. Andy Miller of ASM is said to be among them, as well as Rich Paul. Miller has an extensive list of recent lottery picks on his roster, including Kristaps Porzingis, Nerlens Noel and Myles Turner.
Malik Monk, Kentucky:Mike George of Excel is a former AAU coach who is one of the main cogs behind the development of big-time Canadian basketball, including players like Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Tyler Ennis. But he jumped into the agent’s game four years ago, and is poised to land Monk, a probable lottery pick, this year.
Caleb Swanigan, Purdue:Swanigan was a bruising presence inside for the Boilermakers this yearand earned Big Ten Player of the Year honors. He is a probable first-rounder now. Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports usually does well among Big Ten players, and word is that he is in line to get Swanigan.
Justin Patton, Creighton:It’s still uncertain what Patton will do with his freshman year behind him — few pegged him as a one-and-done before the season— but he played himself into the first round this season, so it makes sense for him to enter the draft. If he does, Bartelstein is also a contender for him, as well as Syracuse big guy Tyler Lydon.
Lauri Markkanen, Arizona:The big Finn impressed as a potential stretch-center, and he is a probable lottery pick should he come out. Michael Lelchitski, who mostly represents international players, including Alex Len, is said to be likely to represent Markkanen.
Cam Oliver, Nevada:Oliver matured a lot this season, and his overwhelming athleticism could get him into the first round. He’s already declared for the draft, and the early indication is that he is picking veteran agent Todd Ramasar.
Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin:Hayes has some ground to make up after being a tweener forward for the Badgers this season. But he was solid as a leader and should earn a second-round spot. He’s rumored to be signing with BDA Sports.