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Volume 21 No. 31
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For BDA Sports, another good year for NBA first-rounders

Bill Duffy’s BDA Sports represented four first-round selections, three of them lottery picks, in last month’s NBA draft, but it’s not the best draft the agent has had in his 30-year career.

“No, I’ve had six first-rounders twice before,” said Duffy, BDA Sports’ founder and CEO. “This was a good year, this year. But we’ve had multiple first-round picks before.”

BDA represented the No. 3 pick, center Jahlil Okafor; No. 8, forward Stanley Johnson; No. 9, forward Frank Kaminsky; and No. 15, forward Kelly Oubre Jr., in last month’s draft. In addition to Duffy, BDA agents Nima Namakian and Kevin Bradbury represent the players.

 
BDA is one of only a handful of agencies that have represented the very top players coming into the league as revenue, the salary cap and NBA free agent deals all explode in value.
 
BDA clients (clockwise from top left) Jahlil Okafor (with Commissioner Adam Silver), Stanley Johnson, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Frank Kaminsky
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES (4)

In fact, just five agencies represented more than half of the first-round picks taken by teams in the last seven years (see chart). BDA Sports represented 23 first-round players, or 11 percent, of NBA clubs’ top selections in the years 2009 through 2015.

This year, BDA was one of four agencies to represent four first-round picks. The others are CAA Sports, which represented the No. 1 pick, Karl-Anthony Towns, and No. 2 pick, D’Angelo Russell, as well as ASM Sports and Priority Sports & Entertainment.

It’s a good time to be an NBA agent. The league is announcing that the salary cap will increase from $63 million this past season to $70 million for the 2015-16 season, and the salary cap is projected to grow to $89 million in 2016-17 and to $108 million in 2017-18. The salary cap is based on a percentage of NBA revenue, and the increase is due in large part to the new $24 billion media deal the league negotiated in 2014.

Under the collective-bargaining agreement, players can renegotiate their rookie deals after three years, and are restricted free agents after four years and unrestricted free agents after five.

Agents, players and NBA clubs agreed to $1.4 billion in deals on the first day of free agency, and some of the contracts for players who are not considered superstars have shocked sportswriters, fans and even some in the industry.

Duffy said that it’s not so much the cap this season but the projections that are driving the market.

“Everyone knows the cap is going up,” Duffy said. “Teams are nervous, especially with these young players because they know if they don’t play out their contract they know there can be a larger capacity to earn more in the market. So they just want to secure these guys. Next year it’s going to be really crazy because the cap is going up 20 million.”

Mark Bartelstein, CEO and founder of Priority Sports & Entertainment, noted that the salary cap in the NBA has been essentially flat for about a decade. He agreed with Duffy’s assessment that projections are driving the market.

“Teams are being more aggressive because they know there is a lot more revenue coming into the business — not just next year, but for years to come,” Bartelstein said. “There really hasn’t been free agency in the NBA because there have been few teams really able to compete in the marketplace. Now with more teams able to compete it’s a more vibrant marketplace.”

Priority has represented 20 players, or 9.5 percent, of the first-round selections in the NBA draft over the past seven years. This year Priority represented No. 18 pick Sam Dekker, No. 22 pick Bobby Portis, No. 27 pick Larry Nance Jr. and No. 28 R.J. Hunter.

Bartelstein and Priority agents Reggie Brown, Joel Cornette, Zach Kurtin, Kieran Piller and Andy Shiffman represent the players.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.

NBA first-round draft success

Agency 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 No. of NBA first-round picks Share
Wasserman Media Group 5 3 4 4 4 5 2 27 12.9%
BDA Sports Management 6 1 4 3 2 3 4 23 11.0%
Excel Sports Management 2 2 1 4 7 2 2 20 9.5%
Priority Sports & Entertainment 2 4 1 3 2 4 4 20 9.5%
CAA Sports 2 1 4 2 0 6 4 19 9.0%

Source: SportsBusiness Journal research