The Dallas Mavericks have had a franchise-altering last three weeks. The organization and long-time General Manager Donnie Nelson parted ways and not long after championship-winning head coach Rick Carlisle announced his resignation from the team. After reports of a toxic culture was brewing within the front office, both pieces of breaking news were incredibly shocking to MFFLs everywhere because it confirmed what they least wanted: turmoil within management.
News broke yesterday that Dallas was in contract negotiations with Head Coach Jason Kidd and the new President of Basketball Operations and GM Nico Harrison. The Kidd news was, rightfully, scrutinized by fans and analysts but the Harrison hire was met with some confusion. Michael Finley had been the hot name for the Basketball Ops position after spending years in the front office as the Vice President of Basketball Ops. Harrison not having any NBA front office managerial experience made the signing feel like a slap in the face.
Or so we thought…
While Harrison doesn’t possess NBA experience, he does have experience with many NBA players. Like a lot of them…
It seems there isn’t a negative word about him anywhere on Twitter from players. That or we haven’t looked hard enough.
This wouldn’t be the first time an agent or company executive has landed an NBA managerial position. Rob Pelinka, Kobe Bryant’s former agent, signed to be the VP of Basketball Operations with the Los Angeles Lakers and is now their General Manager as well. Harrison would be next in line.
Harrison would be an out-of-the-box hire for a team that has been complacent in its operations for decades. He might, however, provide something that Don and Donnie Nelson couldn’t.
Why does Nico Harrison matter? Because he can provide what Dallas has severely lacked under previous management, the ability to recruit star players!
The Dallas Mavericks have been a relevant franchise in the NBA for the greater part of the last two and a half decades. Future Hall-of-Famer Dirk Nowitzki called Dallas home after he was selected in the 1998 NBA draft and his unwavering loyalty to the city always kept Dallas in a position to contend. In 2018, Dallas was able to find another franchise cornerstone in All-NBA guard Luka Doncic providing an incredibly seamless transition between two eras of Dallas basketball.
Three years into the Luka era and it doesn’t take much to realize his surrounding cast hasn’t been great. If the back-to-back first-round exits weren’t good enough, the Atlanta Hawks making the Eastern Conference finals 2018 NBA Draft pick Trae Young highlights how far behind the rest of the league the Mavericks are when it comes to teambuilding.
The 2011 Dallas Mavericks lucked into overachieving role players with Jason Kidd, JJ Barea, Tyson Chandler, Jason Terry, Peja Stojakovic, and Deshaun Stevenson. The team has pursued big-name free agents year in and year out with no fruits to reap. The team is then stuck trying to sign high-potential role players that aren’t able to hit their stride in the playoffs. The team needs good players and has been avoiding them in some capacity for a long time.
Relationships matter; clearly the Mavericks front office and coaching staff haven’t been able to sell priority free agents on coming to Dallas and playing with some of the world’s best players. Dallas has so much to offer every year making it even odder that they haven’t been able to sign… anyone?
Signing Kidd and Harrison show that Owner Mark Cuban is serious about having to change up how some of the operations are run. (Well Harrison more than Kidd) In the past with both Nelson’s running the show, the Mavericks were a haven for European basketball players. Donnie Nelson is often coined as one of the best international scouts in NBA history and was a big reason why Dirk and Luka ended up in Dallas. (Also why Giannis Antentokounmpo almost ended up in Dallas)
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But even with Nelson drafting two franchise players, the rest of his draft and free-agent history is incredibly mediocre. There is a history of trading future good players for washed veterans or other failed projects in the name of cap space. Even when discussing player development, the only draft picks Dallas has developed into legitimate players in the last decade are Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson. (Dorian Finney-Smith is the only positive exception in this list as an undrafted free agent)
Kidd and Harrison are widely popular amongst the stars of the NBA. The same could not be said about Nelson or Rick Carlisle in their tenure in Dallas. If any meaningful change was to take place in Dallas, it was going to have to be at the GM position. The Mavericks may have gotten lucky with the head coach choosing to resign as well.
*Clarification: I don’t think Jason Kidd currently is a better coach than Carlisle, but what Kidd does allow the team to do is start fresh*
If the Mavericks organization wants to keep their superstar(s) happy, they need to start getting better in the player development and roster management areas of team building. It’s possible that time has finally come. It all started with Dallas grabbing a well-liked out-of-the-box option in Nico Harrison.
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