OAKLAND, Calif. It's not quite to the point where the Golden State Warriors feel the need to pad the walls of conference rooms at their team headquarters to ensure the employees' safety, but executive vice president Chris Mullin knows what to expect when his fellow executives, scouts and coaches meet over the next few days to firm up which players Golden State should target in Thursday's draft.
Assuming the Warriors do not make a trade akin to their unexpected deal a year ago sending guard Jason Richardson to Charlotte for the rights to No. 8 selection Brandan Wright they will hold the Nos. 14 and 49 selections. And before using each of those picks, Mullin will have to weigh the arguments from two differing factions among his aides.
On one side will be supporters of taking an established college player, someone in the mold of junior Kansas small forward Brandon Rush, senior Western Kentucky shooting guard Courtney Lee, or senior Rider power forward Jason Thompson. But whispering in the other ear will be folks who want to see the Warriors gamble on a younger player with a seemingly higher upside, such as Alexis Ajinca of France or Texas A&M freshman DeAndre Jordan.
"It's going to be talked about a lot between now and Thursday," Mullin said. "Therein lies all those meetings: some mild-mannered, some very opinionated. And I'll be listening diligently. I'm open to hearing everyone."
Mullin is not necessarily going to serve as an even-handed arbiter in those discussions. The man who has selected Andris Biedrins, Ike Diogu, Patrick O'Bryant and Marco Belinelli in the first round since becoming Golden State's executive vice president in 2004 acknowledged a few days ago that all things being equal, he prefers the prospect with the highest ceiling, even if there's a larger chance of him being a bust.
"Philosophically, in my gut, I like to pick guys that have potential to go on and (be a) star, if that's available," Mullin said. "That's not always available. At the risk of passing on a guy that's (solid but unspectacular), I would lean the other way, most times. All the time? No. Most times? Yes."
If things hold according to form, there will be plenty of big men long on potential but short on polish when the Warriors' name comes up Thursday night. Some possibilities: freshmen Anthony Randolph of LSU and Kosta Koufos of Ohio State, and sophomores Marreese Speights of Florida and JaVale McGee of Nevada.
Because there is, at least in the minds of some independent draft watchers, a drop in quality between the 12th- and 13th-best players in this year's draft, the Warriors could drop down via trade, pick up something of use, and still get someone from that same clutch of big men.
"The group of guys where we are, there's (teams) that maybe want to get up there, feel like there's a player there," said Mullin, who expects the volume of trade-related calls to be larger than last season, when they shipped out Richardson and made a strong run at getting then-Timberwolves star Kevin Garnett.
Mullin does not see drafting a project big man to be a concession that his team is aiming to make a run in 2009-10 or 2010-11 instead of this season, noting that there has not been a long history of All-Stars lasting until the 14th position.
"You look at past years, you look at 48-win teams, and the prospect of the 14th pick tipping the balance "... taking minutes from people, I wouldn't say that (is likely), experienced or not," Mullin said. "You pick the guy who's a senior as opposed to the guy who's a freshman, and you put him on a 48-win team, I don't know that that all of a sudden says anything."
A BRIEF HISTORY OF NO. 14 PICK IN NBA DRAFT
Year . . . . Player . . . .Team . . . Pos. . . . . Height . . . School . . . . Comment
1998 . . . . Michael Dickerson . . . .Houston . . . G-F . . . 6-5 . . Arizona . . . .Gunner averaged 18.2 points per game as a second-year player in Vancouver, but his career was eventually derailed by hamstring and groin injuries.
1999 . . . .William Avery . . . Minn. . . . G . .. . 6-2 . . . .Duke . . . .Came out as a sophomore, becoming one of the first three players (along with Elton Brand and Corey Maggette) to leave Duke early. For Avery, it was a mistake; he played out his rookie deal (with a career field-goal percentage of 33.0 percent) before heading off to the Euroleagues, where he remains.
2000 . . . Mateen Cleaves . . . Det. . . . G . . . 6-3 . .. .Mich. St. . . . More proof that a spectacular collegiate career (two-time Big Ten Player of the Year) does not necessarily translate to the NBA, where he bounced around with four teams in six seasons. Finished up last season with the Bakersfield Jam, the Warriors' affiliate in the NBA Development League.
2001 . . . .Troy Murphy . . . Warriors . .. .F . . . 6-11 . . .Notre Dame . . . One-time double-double machine fell out of favor with Warriors coach Don Nelson and was jettisoned to Indiana in February 2007.
2002 . . . .Fred Jones . . . .Indiana . . .G . . .. 6-4 . .. .Oregon After a slow rookie season, blossomed into a solid rotation player with the Pacers for three years. Spent last season as a moderately bright spot in the unremitting darkness that was the Knicks' 23-59 campaign.
2003 . . . . Luke Ridnour . . . .Seattle . . . G . . . 6-2 . . . .Oregon . . . .Washington native has proven to be a fan favorite but fell out of the lineup this past season, losing the point guard position to Earl Watson after three years as a starter.
2004 . . . . Kris Humphries . . .Utah . . .F . . .6-9 . . . Minnesota . .. .A banger off the bench whose high-energy play earned him a three-year, $9 million contract extension from the Raptors that begins this season.
2005 . . ..Rashad McCants . . . Minn. . . . G . . . 6-4 . . . No. Carolina . . . Talented scorer showed signs of finally putting things together this season, setting career highs with 14.9 points per game and a 40.7 3-point shooting percentage.
2006 . . . . Ronnie Brewer . . . Utah . . . G-F . . . 6-7 . . . .Arkansas Despite a chicken-wing jump shot, his athletic defense and offensive efficiency (12.0 ppg on 55.8 FG percent) helped him force his way into the Jazz's starting lineup this season.
2007 . . .Al Thornton . . . .Clippers . . .F . . . 6-8 . . ..Flo. State . . . .Easily the most polished player in the first round of last season's draft, the Clippers were lucky to have him fall this far. Averaged 12.7 points and 4.5 rebounds and finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting.
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