Nico Harrison is ushering in a new era. The Dallas Mavericks’ GM has been on the job less than a year and has worked around the edges of the roster so far. That all changed Thursday.
Taking bold action, Harrison orchestrated a trade of Kristaps Porzingis, whom the Mavericks once hoped would be a cornerstone presence alongside Luka Doncic, to the Washington Wizards for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans. He saw an opportunity and seized it.
“I think it wasn’t just about him,” Harrison said of trading Porzingis. “It was about really giving ourselves the flexibility that we need to be the team that we want to be. I think that’s really the bottom line. We were able to give ourselves more flexibility and then add more depth.”
Flexibility doesn’t just mean the players and their ability on the court. It also means financial flexibility, Harrison said. Getting out from under Porzingis’ contract, worth $69.8 million over the next two seasons, certainly helps the books.
On the court, though, Harrison is looking forward to adding Dinwiddie and Bertans to the rotation. He believes they’ll be able to contribute in various ways.
“I think in Dinwiddie, you’re going to get a scorer and a ball handler,” Harrison said. “I think with Bertans, you’re going to get a professional that can really shoot the ball. One’s more athletic than the other but you know. Even Bertans, watching a lot of film on him, like defensively, he knows how to play defense, he knows the positions, where to be. He really works on that.”
When the Mavericks acquired Porzingis in a blockbuster trade with the New York Knicks in 2019, they had visions of the one-time All-Star stretching the floor on offense and anchoring the defense. At times, particularly in the NBA Bubble, Porzingis looked every bit the part. But it was never consistent.
Injuries have plagued Porzingis since he arrived in Dallas. This season, he has only appeared in 34 games. A bone bruise in his right knee has kept him sidelined since January 26. Even so, Harrison says that Porzingis’ availability wasn’t a primary factor in moving him.
“I think it was less about his availability and really more about, ‘How do we make the team better?’” Harrison said. “Listen, I think if you look at them, they were knick-knack injuries. If it was the playoffs, he could have played. They were stuff that, during the season, you might sit out but in the playoffs he would have played. I don’t think they were a concern.”
Still, there had been rumblings for quite some time that the Mavericks were looking to part ways with Porzingis, whatever the reason. Harrison says that there were “tons of conversations” with other teams before the deadline. Nothing permanent materialized before Thursday, and the Mavericks pounced.
“The reason why it was the right time is because the trade just came together–and I think we’ve had enough time to evaluate,” Harrison said. “One of the things I talked about with you all from the very beginning is really wanting to be around this team and know the team and evaluate the team. I think we had enough time to do that.
“We know who we are as a team and what we need to do to get better. I think that all played a role into it.”
Even though the trade deadline passed, teams still can claim players who are free agents. As Harrison tells it, the Mavericks’ roster spots are at a premium. He doesn’t foresee any additional roster moves, but that doesn’t mean that the team can’t get better.
“I think we’re good enough to compete,” Harrison said. “I don’t think we’re scared of anybody. I think we’re good enough to compete. It remains to be seen. I also think we also have room for improvement, but I do like the team.”
With one dramatic move, Nico Harrison ushered in a new era for the Dallas Mavericks. Rather than quietly let the trade deadline pass, he chose decisive action to help improve the roster and establish his identity as general manager.
“I think we made our team better and we gave ourselves more flexibility,” Harrison said. “When you say, ‘Did I get everything we wanted?’ – you always want to hit a home run, but we’re better off today than we were yesterday.”
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