The biggest question surrounding the 76ers right now has to do with their search for a president of basketball operations. Yes, bigger than searching for a coach.
Are the Sixers serious about going after top-notch executives? Will they settled for hiring a No. 2 from a well-respected franchise such as the Miami Heat, the San Antonio Spurs, or the Toronto Raptors to run the organization? How much say would their president actually have?
It’s a no-brainer on whom the Sixers should pursue if they’re serious about chasing an NBA title and cleaning up an imagine that continues to take a hit after each front-office blunder.
That person is Donnie Nelson.
The Dallas Mavericks president of basketball operations and general manager would bring instant credibility to an organization in desperate need of a front-office face lift.
There’s a lot of uncertainty about how much control the ownership group is willing to surrender. So it will perhaps take some convincing that the collaborative days are over for a high-profile executive to be interested.
Nelson is the best candidate if they’re truly serious. There isn’t a close second, as he checks all the boxes.
The well-respected 58-year-old was instrumental in building one of the league’s doormats into a perennial playoff team and title contender. The Mavericks made two NBA Finals appearances, winning it all in 2011 under his watch.
He became the team’s president of basketball operations in July 2001. That came after arriving in Dallas in January 1998 to serve as an assistant coach and director of player personnel under his father, the Hall of Fame coach Don Nelson.
His father was hired as the coach and general manager in 1997. Don Nelson stepped down as coach in March 2005 and remained as GM until the conclusion of that season. At that point, Donnie went on to serve as president and general manager.
But Donnie had long ago erased any notion of nepotism. He made his mark through scouting and recruiting foreign players. He was a groundbreaker in what he’s been able to do with foreign players.
He was the main person behind the Mavs' trading for generational players such as Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, and Luka Doncic. And he told Mavs owner Mark Cuban to draft Giannis Antetokounmpo in the 2013.
Cuban passed in what might have been a big regret. The Milwaukee Bucks forward on Friday earned his second consecutive league MVP award.
Nelson’s trade with the Bucks during the 1998 draft led to the Mavericks' getting Nowitzki and Nash.
Milwaukee selected Nowitzki, an unheralded German, with the ninth overall pick in 1998. The Bucks traded him and Pat Garrity to the Mavs for Robert Traylor. The Mavs shipped Garrity, Martin Muursepp, Bubba Wells, and a 1998 first-round pick to the Phoenix Suns for Nash. (Nash rejoined the Suns in July 2004.)
Nowitzki (2007) and Nash (2005, 2006) were both named league MVP. As a result, the Mavs are the lone NBA team to acquire two future MVPs in transactions on the same draft day.
Doncic was selected third overall by the Atlanta Hawks in 2018 and traded to Dallas in exchange for Trae Young and a 2019 first-rounder. Doncic was the 2019 rookie of the year, was named first-team All-NBA this season, and was fourth in the MVP voting.
Nowitzki, Nash, and Doncic are just three of the many celebrated moves Nelson has made. Several of the core members of the 2011 title team – Tyson Chandler, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, Caron Butler, and Brendan Haywood – came via trades.
And he has made several key moves that helped to bring the Mavs back to relevance this season after three straight losing campaigns.
In February 2019, he acquired Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, Trey Burke, and Kristaps Porzingis from the New York Knicks in exchange for DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews, Dennis Smith Jr., a 2021 first-round pick, and a 2023 first-round pick.
Porizingis, the headliner of the trade, re-signed with Dallas last summer. He and Doncic are the faces of the franchise and two of the league’s best young European talents. Hardaway has blossomed into a solid core piece.
Burke signed with the Sixers last summer but was waived in February. The Mavs re-signed him for the NBA restart, where he proved to be a solid addition. Dallas was exciting to watch before losing in six games to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs.
The Sixers could definitely use someone with Nelson’s eye for talent and ability to build a roster.
Under his watch, the Mavs had three 60-plus win seasons, including a franchise-record 67-win campaign in 2007. The Mavs also had 12 straight postseason appearances from 2001 to 2012 and 16 overall in the last 20 years.
That’s a great feat, considering the Mavs failed to make the postseason and averaged 23.9 wins from the 1990-91 to 1999-2000 seasons.
In addition to being a great basketball mind, Nelson is well-respected in global basketball circles.
He’s a no-brainer for the Sixers job, if they want a top-notch basketball mind with NBA title pedigree to make the decisions.