It’s been a turbulent offseason for the Dallas Mavericks. Between NBA rumors of a shadow GM souring team relations with Luka Doncic, Mark Cuban parting ways with Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle suddenly resigning, there is already a significant overhaul before roster moves can be made.
Dallas is now hopeful that a new regime can address a culture that played a role in bad relationships and constant disappointment in the playoffs. Jason Kidd is coming in as the head coach and Cuban raised eyebrows by hiring Nike executive Nico Harrison as general manager.
While many have questioned both moves, let’s examine why Harrison was the right man for Dallas.
Nico Harrison’s background in talent evaluation
Detractors of the hire pointed out that the former Nike executive has no front office experience. The only other general manager in the NBA hired with no experience was Rob Pelinka, but he was an agent, who dealt with general managers regularly. While hiring Harrison is a surprise, his background at Nike should translate to his new gig.
Harrison specifically evaluated talent at Nike, pursuing athletes for the company to pursue for shoe deals. He was also part of the team that decided which players to elevate to the forefront of Nike’s marketing plans. Once he found his player, Harrison negotiated the contract on behalf of Nike.
While being a general manager is much different than being a shoe executive, the skills are so similar that Harrison’s lack of front office experience shouldn’t be a big deal. In fact, Harrison’s time at Nike means he knows young players better than most general managers.
Impact on NBA free agency
The Mavericks’ decision to hire Harrison has received some praise. Many highlighted his strong connections with his clients at Nike. Harrison developed a strong relationship with Kobe Bryant, which gained the respect of players around the league. Current players around the league tweeted their approval of the move — including Damian Lillard — which is rare for a front office hire.
It’s no secret that the Mavs struggle in free agency, especially in the last ten years. Compared to Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle, NBA players will be far more excited to hear pitches from Kidd, Harrison, and Michael Finley. Add the appeal of playing next to Luka Doncic and suddenly the Mavericks might be players in free agency.
Despite his lack of free-agent success, Cuban always pursues big fish. If the Mavericks maintain a clean cap sheet to chase star free agents, a new regime is the next step in recruiting talent. In Harrison, Dallas now has someone at the helm who has close relationships with players, which could make the difference in free agency.
Keeping Luka Doncic in Dallas
One of Harrison’s strongest relationships among active players is with Doncic. Harrison was part of the team that brought Doncic to Nike and “played an instrumental role” in his joining the Jordan Brand in 2019. Doncic was close with Donnie Nelson, so having a replacement that already has a relationship with the Mavs star is huge. With the reports of Doncic being unhappy with the direction of the team, this hire was essential.
At the end of the day, Cuban has to do everything in his power to keep Doncic happy. As Cuban famously said, “If I had to choose between my wife and keeping Luka on the Mavs, catch me at my lawyer’s office preparing for a divorce.” While the backlash from the personnel moves is difficult, it will be worth it to keep Doncci happy. In Nico Harrison, Cuban has found the general manager to lead Dallas back to a championship.