A Look at Warriors Draft
by Glenn Dickey
Jun 24, 2005

AN OPTIMISTIC air prevailed as Warriors vice president Chris Mullin and his assistant, Rod Higgins, met with writers in an informal setting this week to discuss the upcoming NBA draft.

Of course, that optimism is nothing new. Former Warriors general manager Garry St. Jean, Mr. Sunshine himself, always projected a positive note, but there was nothing in St. Jean’s performance or that of his immediate predecessors to persuade critics to agree with him.

It’s different this time around. I don’t agree with all of Mullin’s decisions last season – though the most puzzling of all, signing Adonal Foyle to a big contract, was probably forced on him because the Warriors had no other center – but he has a good feel for the game and he’s a very hard worker. That last trait was probably most responsible for the Baron Davis trade that so dramatically changed the course of the Warriors season; Mullin just kept pursuing that until it happened.

Mullin was always a smart player with great court sense. He was a lights-out shooter but slow, so he had to learn how to work without the ball and get himself open for his shots, which he did very well.

He’s taken that same smart approach into his new job, using his time as an assistant to St. Jean to learn the ins-and-outs of the front office operation. He’s kept in close touch with the basketball operation, traveling with the team, watching practice. He’s also done considerable personal scouting for the draft.

The scouting is especially important this year because there are so many potential choices for the Warriors. Mock drafts from various publications and websites have projected eight different possibilities for the Warriors: Arizona center Channing Frye; Arizona State power forward Ike Diogu; Syracuse power forward Hakim Warrick; Pittsburgh power forward Chris Taft; Connecticut power forward Charlie Villanueva; New Mexico power forward Danny Granger; Spanish power forward Fran Vazquez; and Lithuanian center Martynas Andriushkevicius. You could probably put North Carolina power forward Sean May in there, too.

OPINIONS ON these players are all over the board. One example: May was projected as the No. 4 pick in one mock draft but only No. 24 in another. This, it must be remembered, is media speculation. The draft boards of NBA teams probably show much more consistency, but we don’t have an opportunity to see them.

There’s usually more consistency in the NFL mock drafts – although nobody could see Aaron Rodgers falling as far as he did – but there’s another element in the NBA drafts: the European players. NBA media and fans don’t see the European players, so the only information on them is second-hand.

That’s another reason it’s important that Mullin works so hard on scouting. He sees all these players and the Warriors had a strong European contingent last season, including No. 1 pick Andris Biedrins. When he looks at Andriuskevicius, he can also ask the advice of his former teammate, Sarunas Marciulionis, a legend in Lithuania.

Overall, Mullin thought the draft will be a strong one. “As soon as those four North Carolina players came out, it shoved a lot of guys down who would otherwise been high draft picks,” he said. “I’m sure (North Carolina coach) Roy Williams wasn’t happy, but I was.”

The only common theme in the Warriors projections is that these are all big men, and Mullin said he felt the biggest need was for more scoring and defense inside, though he said that he thought veteran power forward Troy Murphy could be a good inside player. So far, Murphy has been more content to pop from the outside, but he started to work inside more after Davis arrived.

This is the year of the point guard with Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Raymond Felton projected to go at least in the top 10 picks, but it’s unlikely the Warriors would go for one, even if Williams or Felton fell to No. 9. Still, Mullin insisted that the Warriors will draft the best player available, even if he doesn’t fill an immediate need. “Just when you think you don’t need a guy at a position, your starter gets injured and, all of a sudden, that guy you didn’t need is your most important player,” he said.

TEAM PRESIDENT Robert Rowell noted another important reason for optimism: An agreement reached between the league and the Players Association for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“The timing couldn’t have been better,” said Rowell, who said he had not seen the complete agreement but only the main points. “If there’d been no agreement, we’d have stories everywhere that there was the threat of another strike shutting down the game. Instead, we’ve got everybody’s attention on game 7 of the Finals coming up and stories about how well the league is doing.

“For us, especially, it was important, because we feel we have momentum coming off last season and we didn’t want to have a hiccup.”

The agreement is a compromise, with both sides getting some concessions while yielding others, but the importance for the teams, Rowell said, is that they have financial certainty.

That’s the advantage the NFL and NBA enjoy, unlike baseball, with its runaway payrolls at the top. “The last four teams in the playoffs were all teams in the $55-60 million payroll range,” Rowell noted. “You don’t have to spend $80 million to get a winner. That gives everybody hope.”

NOW, THE Warriors have to keep their momentum going by drafting – and possibly trading – wisely.

With Mullin in charge, I’m confident they will.


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