Isaiah Thomas is making another move, but this time, he’s calling the shots.
After being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, former Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas has decided to part ways with his agency, Excel Sports Management, in advance of his impending free-agency period in 2018, ESPN’s Chris Haynes reported Wednesday. Thomas was represented by Sam Goldfeder and will presumably be signing with his third agency of his current contract.
Thomas just had the best season of his career and was due for, if not a max deal, something close to it. On multiple occasions, Thomas was adamant that he would accept nothing less than an armored truck of cash, presumably implying that he wanted a max deal.
In a vacuum, Thomas did deserve a max deal after the 2016-17 regular season because he played like a max player. But problems began when Thomas suffered an injury that is still plaguing him and may interfere with the upcoming season. Thomas’s move to Cleveland did even more to hurt his value, bringing national attention to the extent of his injuries. But playing for the Cavs may not be a total loss for Thomas. After all, most athletes in the league get better when they're playing alongside LeBron. In a Players’ Tribune piece published Wednesday, Thomas said as much: “You really going to throw three guys on me, when I’m sharing a court with the best basketball player on the planet? Nah, I don’t think so.” Still, Thomas’s size, and now his extremely public health issues, make the potential for a max deal look like a thing of the past for the King in the Fourth.
Thomas isn’t the only player who has changed agents this season. After spending extended time in free agency without a deal, Nerlens Noel switched agencies to work with Rich Paul and Klutch Sports. Noel signed a one-year, $4.1 million deal with the Mavs soon thereafter. Earlier this summer, Andrew Wiggins was offered a max extension by the Timberwolves and promptly decided to fire his agent, Billy Duffy of BDA Sports.
Players change agents all the time, and for many reasons. But ahead of projected shrinking cap space next offseason, and with an upcoming loaded free-agency class, the NBA’s middle class is likely concerned about securing paychecks. Noel and Thomas fall into that group, albeit in different tiers. Wiggins, meanwhile, got what he wanted—a max extension offer—but, for some reason, has not yet signed it.
For Thomas, an agency change would give him a chance to be paid for a larger portion of his perceived value. Few players in the NBA believe in themselves as much as Thomas does. But performance is often only half the story. He should learn something from Beats by Dre: If you have pushy marketing, sometimes you don’t even need to be that good to get paid.