Chris Mullin is trying to erase his mistakes. His success in doing that will do much to determine whether the Warriors can finally get back to the playoffs next season.
Since he has been in charge of basketball operations, Mullin has signed Derek Fisher and Adonal Foyle to big contracts, extended the contracts of Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy and Jason Richardson and traded for Baron Davis.
Only the Richardson signing has been an unqualified success.
Fisher, though he played well when Davis was out last season, was given too big a contract for a player who is basically an erratic-shooting reserve. He has been traded to Utah, though the trade can’t be official until at least Wednesday, when the NBA’s new salary cap figures go into effect.
Mullin, the vice president of basketball operations, has promised that there will be other moves. The Warriors’ trading goal is obvious: To get an athletic, good-shooting small forward. Dunleavy is too inconsistent a shooter to be the starter at that position, but his versatility would make him valuable coming off the bench. When Mickael Pietrus was given an opportunity to start at small forward last season, he whiffed. He’s not the answer, either.
When I asked Mullin which two players he’s least likely to trade, he said, “I don’t want to name names but we think our backcourt is the best in the league.”
So, he won’t trade Davis or Richardson and he won’t trade rising star Monta Ellis, either. Dunleavy won’t be traded because he’s in the base year of his contract, which inflates the value of the contract for trade purposes.
Any or all of the three players they are getting in the Fisher trade — Devin Brown, Keith McLeod and Andre Owens — could be used in another trade. Murphy is an obvious candidate for a trade. Pietrus could be part of a package.
With the drafting of two 7-footers, Patrick O’Bryant and Kosta Perovic, the Warriors could have a logjam in the middle, depending on where Perovic plays next season.
“He has some obligations to his national team,” noted Mullin, who has been scouting the native of Serbia and Montenegro for three years. “We’ll have to wait and see how that works out. He’s been playing three years at the highest level of competition over there, so I don’t believe it would necessarily be in his best interest to play another year there.”
Certainly, Perovic doesn’t want to. At the introductory press conference for the two draft choices, he said he was ready to take the next step, to the NBA. (Perovic’s agent said Sunday that Perovic may be excused from playing for the national team because of a back injury that requires rehabilitation)
I doubt that Andris Biedrins will be traded. “He’s working out until 11 every night,” Mullin said admiringly and coach Mike Montgomery echoed that.
Though Mullin has mentioned using Biedrins as a power forward, Montgomery is not enthusiastic about that, with reason. Biedrins has no shot.
The solution will probably be to trade Foyle. That would leave the Warriors with nobody over the age of 21 in the middle, but all three of them have a considerable upside. With Foyle, you know what you’ll get — and it isn’t enough.
Mullin blamed himself for the Warriors’ failures last season, saying he had overrated his roster. Now, he’s trying to make moves to redress that. It will be a very interesting offseason.