OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -Chris Mullin's choice with the 14th selection in the NBA draft is actually just the first pick in a summer full of delicate decisions for the Golden State Warriors.
Although Baron Davis is likely to return, the Warriors' franchise player still could opt out of his contract this week - and without an extension, he's less likely to be happy in Oakland. Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins are restricted free agents open to bidding from any team next month, and there's also a $10 million trade exception burning a hole in the pocket of the Warriors' top basketball executive.
y good team into something better.
``We have a lot of things that need to get cleared up about the future,'' said Mullin, who has conducted workouts with about 50 potential draftees in the last month.
``This past season, having gotten younger and increased our win total, I think we're making progress. But the level of competition around us, the league is as healthy as it's been in a long time. It just seems like they're going to continue to get better. We're in good shape, but the stakes just seem to be getting higher.''
Mullin watched the Celtics' run to the title last month with admiration and frustration, knowing Boston's decisive deal to get Kevin Garnett had trumped his own effort to land the Minnesota star. Mullin said he would do just about anything this summer to acquire a player he calls ``a difference-maker,'' whether through a move up in the draft order or a trade to land a veteran contributor - even while he concedes less than 12 such players are realistically available.
He's determined to keep Ellis and Biedrins, his own difference-makers from recent drafts who will be restricted free agents, and he also expects Davis to decide by Monday to return for the final year of his contract at nearly $18 million. Stephen Jackson, Kelenna Azubuike and second-year pros Brandan Wright and Marco Belinelli also seem certain to be back.
That means big man Al Harrington could be Mullin's most marketable player, with his $9 million salary and ample potential that still hasn't been fully realized. Harrington was a solid role player for Golden State last season, but didn't match Jackson's breakout offensive season and occasionally chafed at his supporting role.
If the Warriors swing a trade, Harrington easily could be a part of it - but Mullin also wants to be cautious about maintaining the chemistry in this unique mix of talents.
``Al has played a lot of different positions throughout his career, and that's real valuable, especially for us,'' Mullin said. ``Do you want more? I think players always want more, teams want more. Realistically, the guy's a heck of a player and has been, pretty much everywhere he's been.''
As for Thursday's draft, Golden State has the 14th and 49th picks in a field widely considered to decline in quality after the first 12 players. That notion doesn't discourage Mullin, who has explored the possibility of making a move for a topflight prospect, as he did last year in trading Jason Richardson to Charlotte to land Wright, the eighth overall pick.
Mullin wants to emerge from the draft with depth for the upcoming season, though he acknowledges he'd still prefer to land a potential superstar over a safer pick - no surprise from the executive who came out of recent drafts with Wright, Belinelli, Patrick O'Bryant and Ike Diogu.
``Philosophically, in my gut, I like to pick guys that have the potential to go on and be stars in this league,'' Mullin said. ``That's not always available. ... I do feel like we have to take that next step. When you go from 42 (victories) to 48, that next step is tough.''
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