Klutch Sports Powers Lakers’ Draft!
Does the Lakers’ surprise selection of a Klutch Sports’ client in the NBA Draft portend what’s likely to happen in free agency?
The Lakers’ decision on draft night to use their lone pick in the draft to select a Klutch Sports’ client continued a course that started with the trade with the Pelicans for Anthony Davis and could dominate this summer’s free agency.
There’s no doubt the Lakers need to surround LeBron James and Anthony Davis with dead-eye shooters and lock-down defenders but questions are starting to emerge about the expanding power of Rich Paul’s Klutch Sports. The Lakers spent their lone draft pick, a second rounder purchased from the Orlando Magic, to select Talen Horton-Tucker, an 18-year old Klutch Sports’ client who’d slipped badly in the draft and whom they’d never worked out.
While Rob Pelinka had watched Horton-Tucker at a Klutch Sports pro day, the only Lakers that Talen actually met and spoke with were fellow Klutch Sports’ clients LeBron James and Anthony Davis and the pick used to select him was one purchased to select Bol Bol, who was unfortunately taken by the Nuggets two picks earlier. The question is why was the pick then used at the very last minute to select a Klutch Sports’ client whom the team had not worked out?
There’s always been a thin line between LeBron James’ teams and Klutch Sports’ clients. LeBron is not only Rich Paul’s best friend; he’s also the man who gave him an opportunity to become a mega sports agent by helping him start in the business and signing with him when he founded Klutch Sports. Everyone remembers how LeBron and Rich used their power to get then Cavs GM David Griffin to sign Rich’s clients Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith.
The concerns about the close relationship between LeBron James and Rich Paul were so great that the NBA actually undertook an official investigation in August 2017 to confirm LeBron had no ownership interest in Klutch Sports. There have always been favorable relationships between team owners and front offices but LeBron James and Rich Paul have taken the concept to new heights and now unabashedly yield their power to benefit mutual interests.
The power of LeBron James and Rich Paul was on full display during their two-year campaign to force the New Orleans Pelicans to trade Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers. After a vitriolic backlash against AD’s attempt to force the trade backfired at the trade deadline last season and caused both teams to crash and burn, the Lakers with the help of Klutch Sports were finally able to get the Pelicans to trade Davis to the Lakers this summer.
The LeBron James and Klutch Sports relationship is a double edged sword. There’s no question it’s a powerful force that can help LeBron’s teams succeed as clearly demonstrated by the Lakers’ successful trade this summer for Davis. But it also cuts the other way by generating an anti-Lakers backlash from other teams that creates an adversarial relationship that can undermine the independence and authority of the Lakers’ ownership and front office.
The Lakers surprise decision to use their lone pick in this summer’s draft to select the unheralded Talen Horton-Tucker could be a harbinger of what to expect when free agency starts a week from now. Unless the Lakers strike gold and are able to convince superstars Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, or Jimmy Butler to join LeBron and AD, they will likely be looking to sign top quality free agent role players who are elite shooter and defenders.
What they don’t need in that situation is undue pressure from LeBron James and Rich Paul to spend scarce free agent dollars to sign Klutch Sports clients like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Corey Joseph, or Marcus or Markieff Morris. What could benefit the Lakers greatly, however, is Rich Paul convincing his clients that signing with the Lakers for less and becoming world champions in a major market like Los Angeles could ultimately be a boon to their careers.
After all, that’s essentially the same identical argument Rich Paul used to convince Anthony Davis join the Los Angeles Lakers and forego signing a more lucrative supermax contract with the New Orleans Pelicans. Maybe he can talk KCP into signing with the Lakers for the room exception or Corey Joseph to sign for the veteran minimum to win a ring or the Morris brothers to sign for $5 million each for the opportunity to play on the same team?
In other words, could Rich Paul help Rob Pelinka maximize his limited free agent dollars by getting signing discounts from multiple Klutch Sports clients with the promise of championship rings, endorsements, and future raises? The Lakers are going to be challenged to build a deep and diverse roster around LeBron James and Anthony Davis and Rich Paul and Klutch Sports have an interesting class of free agents who might fit what the Lakers need.
Rob Pelinka’s not going to make a move that’s not in the best interests of the Los Angeles Lakers and Rich Paul’s not going to make a move that’s not in the best interest of his clients but there are areas where their interests overlap. Chances are we’re going to continue to see the Lakers, LeBron James, and Klutch Sports working together to create success for their shared interests. This summer will surely be a Lakers’ free agency powered by Klutch Sports.