Nico Harrison Deserves His Praise for Mavericks' Finals Run

Jason Kidd (L) and Nico Harrison at a press conference.
Jason Kidd (L) and Nico Harrison at a press conference. / SOPA Images/GettyImages

We frequently pass by huge, sometimes even breathtaking buildings and towers throughout whatever city we reside in. Very rarely do we stop to think about the architects who designed them, those who spent countless hours designing extraordinary pieces of art and finding ways to make impractical designs somehow practical.

In basketball, the GM plays the role of architect, and the position appears to be just as overlooked and underappreciated in the NBA as it is in the real world.

Nico Harrison currently fills the role of Mavericks GM and appears to be under-appreciated as any other GM currently in the league. Even if Harrison may go unnoticed by the casual fan, he has quickly established himself as one of the most respected executives across the league, finishing in the top fifth in voting for the NBA Executive of the Year Award this season.

Harrison was hired as the Maverick's GM in the summer of 2021 after GM Donnie Nelson left the team following 24 years in the position. When Harrison was first brought on board to lead the Mavs front office, many fans were skeptical about the decision because he had no experience as either a player or an executive; instead, he was the Vice President of North American basketball operations for Nike. 

Although Harrison entered the Mavs front office in a very unorthodox way, a few moves made by Harrison quickly changed the media and the fan's perception of him for the better. One move in particular that transformed Harrison from somewhat of a nobody to one of the more prominent general managers in the league was when he created a trade package that brought Kyrie Irving to Dallas in February of 2023.

For years now, Mark Cuban and the rest of the Mavericks front office have had an extraordinarily tough time getting big-name players to come to Dallas. Whether it be through free agency or trade, it seemed that the Mavericks could never attract superstar caliber players to Dallas, but the aquastation of Kyrie changed all that. 

Acquiring Irving alone significantly raised Harrison's stature across the league, especially in Dallas, but he didn't just stop there. He kept on making moves to build the Mavs into a more well-rounded team, which included trading for Duke standout Dereck Lively in the draft this past summer.

For almost a decade now, the Mavericks have been lacking a true big man in the center position. While many players attempted to play the position, none were ever able to work out as a long-term solution -- until Lively arrived on the scene last summer. Lively's presence in the paint instantly made an impact on the Mavs' offense and helped them become a more well-rounded offense than they were prior to his arrival.

Harrison being able to find success through the draft, something that his predecessor seldomly did, earned him praise throughout Dallas. Harrison was still not content with the Mavs roster, though, and continued looking for ways to improve the team. He did just that by acquiring both PJ Washington and Daniel Gafford at the trade deadline this past February.

Both Gafford and Washington were exceptional players stuck playing for less-than-desirable teams when this season started. After the small forward position was quickly identified as the Mavs' weakness, Harrison immediately found a way to upgrade the position by shipping Grant Williams off to Charlotte and landing a two-way forward in Washington, who has become one of the most valuable players during this playoff run for the Mavericks.

He also managed to find a way to upgrade the Mavs' center position, giving Lively some relief by trading practically nothing for Daniel Gafford. Gafford has established himself as one of the most vital players for the Mavericks on defense throughout the postseason while also being a dominant presence in the paint on the offensive side.

Even if Harrison may not receive as much credit as he deserves for building one of the most successful teams in Mavericks history, like any good architect, Harrison is not concerned with the praise of his work. Instead, it's about the results, and right now they look pretty great.

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