After The Athletic’s bombshell report on the Dallas Mavericks’ dysfunctional front office, it’s never been clearer that Mark Cuban has to make changes. One of his first moves should be to fire general manager Donnie Nelson.
Nelson, who has been with the Mavs since 1998, has come under the most scrutiny for the Mavericks’ playoff woes. These are three reasons why Donnie Nelson should be fired.
Many of Donnie Nelson’s trades have flopped
Dallas has never been a free agency destination, so the Mavericks have focused on finding talent through trades. However, Nelson’s recent resume is just awful. Since the draft-night acquisition of Luka Doncic, Dallas has made seven trades. None of them have been a clear success.
The Kristaps Porzingis trade was worth the risk, but the Latvian center has simply not worked out in Dallas. In the other trades, Nelson gave away Harrison Barnes for cap space that was unused, trade two second-round picks for Delon Wright, only to use two more second-rounders to get off his contract a year later, and acquired JJ Redick, who didn’t play a minute in the playoffs.
Worst of all, Nelson traded away fan favorite Seth Curry for Josh Richardson and a second-round pick. Curry has continued his stellar play in Philadelphia, but Richardson has been terrible all season. During the playoff series, Richardson was unplayable, forcing coach Rick Carlisle to give Trey Burke minutes in game seven.
Many of these trades made sense at the time, but something is clearly wrong with the organization when all of them fail. At the end of the day, it’s on Donnie Nelson and it’s one of the main reasons he should be fired.
Donnie Nelson has created clear holes on the roster
Dallas has a huge advantage in building a roster. Doncic is still on his rookie contract, but plays like a max salary player. In the East, the Atlanta Hawks have a similar advantage with Trae Young and signed solid players such as Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic. Depending on Porzingis, Dallas has no one up to that quality.
It’s safe to say Doncic, Porzingis, Jalen Brunson, Doran Finney-Smith, and Tim Hardaway Jr., could make the rotations of almost every playoff team. The rest of the Mavericks would struggle.
Maxi Kleber had a great year, but his defense and shooting cratered in the playoffs. Boban Marjanovic is a great guy and a useful tool on offense, but his poor defense makes him unplayable. Dwight Powell, Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Burke, and Nicolo Melli are simply not good enough for most playoff teams.
Beyond talent, the roster doesn’t make sense. Dallas is a 3-point shooting team with few elite shooters. Despite having a glut of point guards, only Luka Doncic can handle the ball or act as a playmaker. Doncic is best as a facilitator, but he doesn’t play with anyone who can score with regularity. The roster is a mess and that’s clearly Donnie Nelson’s fault.
Donnie Nelson has a poor overall NBA Draft record
In the last 25 years, the Mavericks have hit on two huge lottery picks — Dirk Nowitzki and Luka Doncic. However, outside those two fantastic picks, Dallas has a poor drafting record. Dallas took Josh Howard at the end of the 2003 NBA Draft. He went on to become an All-Star and was very productive in seven seasons with the Mavericks.
Until Doncic’s selection, Dallas didn’t pick a player who played for more than two seasons. Most of their selections were out of the NBA by then. That’s 15 years without drafting a rotational player — an abysmal track record.
While the drafting of Doncic and Brunson in 2018 was fantastic, Nelson’s recent picks haven’t fared well. He passed on Saddiq Bey, Precious Achiuwa, Desmond Bane, and Immanuel Quickley to take Josh Green. Green has shown glimpses of promise, but that looks to be a bad draft pick so far. Even if Green pans out, Dallas needed to select a player who would instantly help. There were players available who would have helped this season’s Mavs; Green did not.
Dallas hasn’t won a playoff series since the 2011 championship, yet all of the main figures are still there. Carlisle is on the hot seat, but he’s consistently proven to be one of the best coaches in the league. The same cannot be said for Nelson as a general manager.
The Mavericks need to shake up their organization, and it starts with firing Donnie Nelson.