Watching everyone else have fun when you can’t isn’t ideal.
Yet, that was the situation first-year general manager Nico Harrison walked into, with the Dallas Mavericks not owning a draft pick in Thursday night’s 2021 NBA Draft due to the Kristaps Porzingis trade from 2019.
With no selections of his own, Harrison’s first major test on the job, was by default, a pass. His phone stayed active all night with potential deals. But ultimately, the Mavericks’ already established “youth” was enough to counter hopes of buying – or trading – into the draft.
“If you look at our roster, we are really young,” Harrison said in his predraft media availability. “Our young guys are rookies. It’s like they get to do their rookie year all over again, with an actual summer league.
“For us, it isn’t what we do today or tomorrow. It’s a long-term thing.”
Though Harrison went without a selection in the draft, he still revealed what type of roster he would like to build around Doncic. The description word of choice: versatility.
He wants guys that can play at different spots on the floor and have skillsets that differ but make sense together.
“You are going to see versatility,” Harrison said. “Everything starts with our superstar guard. When you have him, it’s like, what can we do to make him better, and help him win. So, you’re going to see shooting, length, intensity in terms of defense and also rebounding.”
What Nico Harrison said of free agency:
No selections on draft night made roster manipulation difficult for the Mavericks. Figuring out the logistics of the roster will come during NBA free agency. And depending on what happens with Josh Richardson’s player option, the Mavs may have roughly $21 million in cap space, according to spotrac.com.
Harrison didn’t divulge any free agency plans. And he hasn’t heard from Richardson regarding his player option. But he hinted that through his keen talent evaluation skills and relationships, the Mavs could be buyers in the 2021 free agency class.
“In terms of talent evaluation, I have a bit of a cheat code, ” Harrison said. From his days at Nike, Harrison knows certain skills translate to the NBA executive job. And he sees those skills as “the relationships with the players. And not just the basketball players, but also the GMs and the presidents and the coaches that are in the league.”
Banking on those relationships helped build Harrison a two-decade-long career at Nike. After a draft dearth of selections, he is now banking on those relationships to result in a substantial retooling of the roster heading into next season.
How close was Dallas to trading into the draft?
Harrison was adamant that for the Mavericks to trade into the draft, it would require the “right player.” With them not doing so, two truths immediately come to mind. Either the Mavericks didn’t see a player they felt was worth giving up assets to pursue, or they had a player they wanted but couldn’t get a deal done Thursday night.
“We were fielding all calls,” Harrison said after the draft. “The first part of the draft, the phones were ringing off the hook. Everybody called. They wanted us to trade to get in, but it was way too rich for our blood and it just didn’t make sense.”
At the end of the draft night, the Mavs did sign Eugene Omoruyi, and he may play on the Mavericks Summer League roster as August nears. He was, in fact, one of the first signees the Mavericks made after the draft, as they aim to fill out that NBA Summer League roster in the coming days.
“We just want the best available players we can get, to surround the players that we already have,” Harrison said regarding his Summer League roster construction. “We have three or four players already coming from our team, so we need the best possible players to surround them.”
NBA Summer League, free agency and the road ahead:
With the draft -albeit a quiet one – behind Dallas, all eyes are focused on player development in the Summer League and the start of NBA free agency. That is when the real test for Harrison begins.
Since his hire, he has called on the relationships he’s fostered with players and executives throughout the league as his biggest strength. With Dallas’ limited roster mobility, that strength will be put to the test sooner rather than later.
Nevertheless, after Harrison’s first big night on the job, there is no cause for concern moving forward.
“We have so many young players, we have to see what they can do,” Harrison said regarding why they didn’t make a move during the draft. “It just didn’t really make sense for us.”
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Feature image via Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports.