Nico Harrison went into his first NBA draft as general manager of the Dallas Mavericks without a pick, which made for an interesting day.
“It is a little weird because everybody’s congratulating me and thanking me and wishing me good luck for the draft, and we don’t have a pick,” Harrison said before the start of Thursday night's draft. “So I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to do. ... It’s like a dry run, I guess. It’s going to serve me well for future years.”
Harrison, who replaced Donnie Nelson in a sudden shakeup that started with Nelson's firing last month followed a day later by Rick Carlisle's resignation as coach, said he was still “talking to all the teams,” and left open the possibility of trading into the draft.
It didn't happen, so the Mavericks, who were without a first-round pick because of the 2019 trade with New York for Kristaps Porzingis, didn't make a selection for the third time in franchise history.
The first bill on the Porzingis deal comes due with questions swirling about his role after the 7-foot-3 Latvian ended up being mostly a decoy as Dallas lost to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
How Porzingis fits with young star Luka Doncic in what the Mavericks have hoped would be a dynamic European pairing is the biggest question facing coach Jason Kidd, who replaced Carlisle 10 years after helping the Mavericks win their only championship as the point guard.
Harrison, who spent 19 years with Nike's basketball division, also has a role in maximizing the value of Porzingis. An All-Star with New York in 2018, Porzingis signed a $158 million, five-year contract before playing his first game with the Mavericks.
“I really think it starts off with the coach and the coaches,” Harrison said. “And I really think bringing in a coach that’s really going to coach him up, give him the confidence, put him in positions to be successful, I think that’s going to elevate his play. And I think we’re going to get the Porzingis that everybody wants to see.”
Owner Mark Cuban offered an unsolicited defense of Porzingis during the introductory news conference for Kidd and Harrison two weeks ago.
“I think he’s been unfairly maligned,” Cuban said. “During the playoffs, he did exactly what he was asked to do. He put team first.
“This is going to be his first season with the Dallas Mavericks where he’s coming in healthy. He’s able to work on things other than just rehabbing to get his body ready, to get stronger, to work on his game. With what J-Kidd and Nico have planned, I think him and Luka are going to be a lot better together.”
The Mavericks had a second-round pick that went to New Orleans in another trade, though that selection at No. 53 went to Philadelphia.
Asked what he could do to impress Cuban without a pick in his first draft, Harrison said, “I mean, the boss is smart so he knows we don’t have any draft picks. For us, impressing him isn’t going to be what we do today or tomorrow. It’s a long-term thing.”
The Porzingis puzzle is a starting point for the long term.