Once it comes time to negotiate a new—or first—sneaker deal, agents know what to expect and can set proper expectations with players. Generally speaking, all three companies will come in with similar figures and guys will choose based on either loyalty or product preferences. But sometimes the money simply is higher with one company. Adidas, for example, has started throwing more cash around as they’ve exited the NBA uniform sponsorship in lieu of signing individual contracts. “If one shoe company is offering a contract wildly above market, no matter your loyalty you will go with that shoe company,” Saratsis says. “If you talk about the #1 pick in the draft, they go to the highest bidder.” When you move into the late first-round or second-round guys and the deals dip into $30,000 cash plus $30,000 worth of product, that’s when loyalty or preference falls back in line.
Sacramento also has made shooting guard Ben McLemore, in the final year of his rookie contract, available for months, after acquiring Malachi Richardson in a draft-day deal and signing veteran Arron Afflalo.
We had our resident draftniks and basketball futurists weigh in on three of the most notable prospects in what promises to be a draft class worth tanking for. Markelle Fultz. Kevin O’Connor: One month before USA Basketball won gold at the Rio Olympics, Markelle Fultz led the U.S. Under-18 team to a championship of its own at the FIBA Americas tournament in Chile. Fultz, Washington’s incoming freshman point guard, was named tournament MVP, averaging 13.8 points and 5.2 assists with a 60.4 effective field goal percentage. Fultz is a top prospect in the 2017 NBA draft, which seemed unthinkable just a few years ago when he couldn’t even make DeMatha Catholic High School’s varsity team as a sophomore. The coaches knew he was good, but it wasn’t until Fultz’s three-inch growth spurt (to roughly 6-foot-4 in shoes) that his game blossomed.
Josh Jackson. Jonathan Tjarks: Every team in the NBA needs players like Josh Jackson. He’s 6-foot-8 and 203 pounds, and he’s the best athlete in one of the strongest high school classes in recent memory. Even at the McDonald’s All American Game in March, with future pros all over the floor, Jackson stood out. He was as fast as any of the point guards on either team and he had the size to bang with the power forwards.
Harry Giles. Danny Chau: Harry Giles has torn the MCL and meniscus in his left knee, and he’s torn the ACL in both knees, all before turning 18. Had everything gone perfectly, he would have assuredly been the undisputed no. 1 player in the nation. Instead, after two catastrophic knee injuries — the most recent occurring 10 months ago, during the first minutes of his senior-season debut — Giles plummeted all the way to … no. 2, according to the cumulative rankings compiled by the Recruiting Services Consensus Index. ESPN, so enamored with Giles’s talent, kept him in the no. 1 position at the end of the season; a day after the tear was confirmed, Giles became the crown jewel of Duke’s outstanding 2016 recruiting class. Calamity keeps trying to get in the way, but Harry Giles might be too special, too Teflon, for any of her wicked stunts to change the trajectory of his career.