News broke today that New York Knicks center Nerlens Noel is suing agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports for $58 million. Noel claims Paul was responsible for Noel passing up on the four-year, $70 million deal the Dallas Mavericks offered him in 2017. Noel alleges he took the advice of Paul to sign a one-year qualifying deal to hit free agency, and when Noel got hurt and missed half the season, he ended up on a path of low-paying one-year deals until he signed a $32 million contract with the Knicks this offseason.
In the lawsuit, Noel makes some damning accusations about Paul's free agency strategy. Per SportsAgentBlog:
Paul is criticized for failing to make an effort to try to secure contracts or deals on Noel’s behalf during the 2018-19 NBA season he spent with the Thunder and thereafter. Noel declined a player option on the second year of his deal with the Thunder and instead hit the free agent market. He received no offers from any other teams and was forced to sign another one-year league minimum contract with the Thunder.
Noel allegedly learned from Brett Brown, who was coaching the Philadelphia 76ers at the time, that the 76ers front office had been trying to contact Paul to discuss a potential deal and that Paul refused to respond. This was purportedly the case with other team representatives who were reaching out as well.
Eventually, Noel says that he contemplated terminating his representation relationship with Klutch Sports; however, he was persuaded by Lucas Newton of the company that they were working on a 3-year deal with the Thunder that should compensate Noel to the tune of $7 million to $10 million annually. Thus, Noel decided to stay in place with his agency of record.
Then, free agency hit and the first day was quiet. Noel says that he later learned that representatives from the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers wanted to discuss opportunities with Paul, but that they could not make contact. Leon Rose (who was formerly an agent at Creative Artists Agency but then the President of the New York Knicks) reached out about a deal and Noel ultimately signed a 1-year contract for $5 million.
Yikes. Noel's lawsuit also accuses the agent of ignoring his lower-value clients and only focusing on marquee names.
Should any of this be true, Paul will have a lot to answer for. Klutch employs the likes of LeBron James and Ben Simmons but have a lot of other players under the company umbrella. Paul and the company's reputations are taking a huge hit just by having all of this out in the open. We'll see how it all unfolds.