Steinmetz: Does Mully have more magic?

Since he took over as Warriors executive vice president of basketball operations in 2004, Chris Mullin has made two blockbuster trades, both of which were completely unforeseen.

In February 2005, Mullin virtually stole Baron Davis from New Orleans for Speedy Claxton and Dale Davis. In January, Mullin fleeced Indiana in an eight-player trade and got Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington for Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy.

The point is that you never know what’s up Mullin’s sleeve. Still, there remains a possibility that next season’s Warriors could look a lot like this year’s Warriors.

Here are four offseason issues:

MICKAEL PIETRUS, RESTRICTED FREE AGENT: Pietrus isn’t likely to be a Warrior in 2007-08. He helped the Warriors at times this season but has never been consistent. Now, four years into his career, it is fair to ask whether you’ll ever be able to rely on Pietrus day in and day out.

He will likely want a raise from his current $2.5 million salary and a bigger role. The Warriors can’t guarantee either.

MATT BARNES, UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT: Barnes was a blessing for the Warriors this season, providing coach Don Nelson with the kind of versatile player he needed. Barnes proved to be a 3-point threat and great teammate.

The bad news is the Warriors are unlikely to be able to re-sign him. Barnes’ agent, Dan Fegan, is a master at identifying a team or two likely to pay his clients more than market value.

The good news is that Nelson is a master at finding players just like Matt Barnes.

DON NELSON’S STATUS: Warriors fans found out this season just how valuable an elite coach can be. After 12 consecutive non-playoff seasons, Nelson was the catalyst in not only getting the Warriors into the postseason, but winning a series while they were there.

Nelson said he will make a decision on his return this summer. He has two more years remaining on his contract, but it’s not like he has to come back. Nelson has significant leverage right about now, and he’s always shown a propensity to use it.

Still, it says here Nelson will return and the Warriors will be thankful for it.

THE MISSING BIG MAN: It’s no secret that the Warriors have to find some interior help. It seems logical that Mullin will spend a good chunk of his summer trying to find an athletic power forward-center, a player who can rebound, defend and score a little bit in the low post.

Those types of players are hard to come by, but the Warriors will be hard-pressed to make it into the second round of the playoffs next season without an upgrade up front.

Mullin could address this issue in the draft, but it’s unrealistic to believe the No. 18 pick will be able to step right up and help. Mullin also could look at the free-agent pool, but the luxury tax looms. He could also look into a trade, perhaps even using Pietrus or Barnes.

Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Fox Sports Net.


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