What Would Mullin Do? Grading His Tenure With The Warriors.

With Donnie Walsh acknowledging that he’d like to give Chris Mullin the GM job if he could, I think it would make sense to take a look at Mullin’s job performance in the past.

Mullin’s previous executive experience is comprised of a five year stint as the General Manager of the Warriors. He’s had some definite hits, and some clear whiffs. The transactional history below (but not the analysis) is taken from HoopsHype’s GM page.

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Draft record:

  • 2004 – Selected Andris Biedrins. A pretty good choice. Biedrins puts up numbers when healthy, and his injuries can hardly be considered Mullin’s fault.
  • 2005 – Selected Ike Diogu in the lottery and Monta Ellis 40th. Obviously Diogu didn’t work out, and Andrew Bynum, Danny Granger and several other rotation players were still on the board. Obviously the Ellis picked redeemed him.
  • 2006 – Patrick O’Bryant and Kosta Perovic. Yikes. In his defense, the vast vast majority of good players were selected before Golden State picked.
  • 2007 -Marco Belinelli 18th, Jermareo Davidson 36th, and Stephane Lasme 46th. Meh. But again, only a smattering of useful players were selected after the Warriors picked.
  • 2008 – Anthony Randolph 14th and Richard Hendrix 49th. Obviously the jury is still out on this one but I have a good feeling about it.

Overall there’s nothing terribly impressive in Mullin’s drafting record. The gems are Ellis and possibly Randolph, who could ultimately raise the arbitrary grade about to give him for drafting: B.

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Trades:

  • 2004:
    • Traded guard Nick Van Exel to the Portland Trail Blazers for guard Dan Dickau and center Dale Davis.
    • Re-signed center Erick Dampier and traded him with guard Dan Dickau, center Evan Eschmeyer and the draft rights to guard Steve Logan to the Dallas Mavericks for forwards Eduardo Najera and Christian Laettner, the draft rights to guard Luis Flores and forward Mladen Sekularac, two first-round picks and cash.
    • Traded two second-round picks to the Phoenix Suns for forward Zarko Cabarkapa and waived forward Ansu Sesay.
    • Traded forward Clifford Robinson to the New Jersey Nets for two second-round picks in 2005 and 2007.
    • Traded guard Speedy Claxton, center Dale Davis and cash to the New Orleans Hornets for guard Baron Davis; traded guard Luis Flores, forward Eduardo Najera and a 2007 first-round pick to the Denver Nuggets for forwards Rodney White and Nikoloz Tskitishvili.

None of these really stand out obviously except the Baron Davis trade, which was the first step to putting together a team that, as the 8th seed, knocked out the powerhouse Mavs in the first round of the playoffs several years later.

  • 2005: No trades.
  • 2006:
    • Traded guard Derek Fisher to the Utah Jazz for guards Devin Brown, Keith McLeod and Andre Owens.
    • Traded guard Keith McLeod and forwards Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy and Ike Diogu to the Indiana Pacers for guards Stephen Jackson and Sarunas Jasikevicius and forwards Al Harrington and Josh Powell.

The Jackson/Harrington trade is the other move that really catapulted the Warriors into the stratosphere for a brief moment in time. The rotation of Davis, Ellis, Richardson, Jackson, Harrington, Biedrins, Pietrus, Barnes and Azubuike was pretty dynamic, though obviously small.

As Don Nelson became more entrenched, Mullin lost influence, and this team was systematically taken apart.

  • 2007:
    • Traded guard Jason Richardson and the draft rights to forward Jermareo Davidson to the Charlotte Bobcats for the draft rights to forward Brandan Wright and cash.
  • 2008:
    • Traded a conditional first-round pick to the New Jersey Nets for guard Marcus Williams.
    • Traded forward Al Harrington to the New York Knicks for guard Jamal Crawford.

As Knicks fans, we don’t like the first of the above trades and have mixed feelings on the second one. Needless to say if the Knicks didn’t trade for Harrington they wouldn’t have the team together that they have now. But I’m evaluating Mullin here not Walsh.

None of the trades that weren’t forced on Mullin by Nelson were horrible mistakes. His trades for Davis, Harrington and Jackson made the Warriors a dynamic and dangerous team. Nelson couldn’t leave well enough alone so he had to dismantle a good thing. To the extent that the Marcus Williams, and Richardson trades were attributable to Mullin, they were mistakes. None of his trades were really cap-conscious moves, but it doesn’t matter because his signings weren’t either. More on that next. B+.

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Signings (I’ll only be focusing on major signings. Most 10-day contracts and no-name players will be excluded):

  • 2004: Adonal Foyle (6/$42), Derek Fisher (6/$37), Jason Richardson (extended), Troy Murphy (extended at 6/$60).
  • 2005: Mike Dunleavy (extended at 5/$44), Will Bynum (2 10 days and then signed for the rest of the year).
  • 2006: Kelenna Azubuike.
  • 2007: Matt Barnes (re-signed), CJ Watson (2 10 days and then signed for the rest of the year).
  • 2008: Corey Maggette (5/$50), Ronny Turiaf (4/$17), Anthony Morrow, Steven Jackson (extended at 3/$28).

Two patterns at place here. Mullin had a bad, bad, bad habit of overpaying free agent signees and his own players at the end of rookie deals or veterans up for extensions. He also discovered a multitude of solid players.

Everyone from Fisher, to Richardson, to Murphy, to Dunleavy, to Maggette, to Turiaf, to Jackson were signed to deals that were much too rich. You can’t build a winning team with guys like that being your highest paid guys. It’s a lesson many other NBA teams, including the Knicks, learned the hard way.

At the same time, he found some relatively cheap guys that flew under everyone else’s radar, like Will Bynum, Kelenna Azubuike, Anthony Morrow and CJ Watson.

None of these are going to put anyone over the top but they’re very nice and affordable finds. Overall though the overpayment to marginal guys is inexcusable. In his next stop Mullin has to avoid that kind of recklessness. C-.

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So there you have it. Just writing this, I feel much more informed about the prospect of Mullin as a future GM for the Knicks. Clearly he has his strengths but he also has significant weaknesses. I can’t say that I think he’s any better than an average GM based on his track record, but hopefully he’d improve under Walsh’s tutelage.

3 comments

  1. KnickWiz

    wow before this post i was fairly excited at the possibility of Mully becoming our next GM… but now im pretty skeptical.

    his track record is not at all impressive, though does seem to have an eye for under-the-radar talent. but his willingness to sign mediocre players to star quality contracts is most egregious crime you can commit as a GM is, especially here in NY after the Isaiah Thomas era. Hopefully Donnie teaches him the ropes if he is to become his heir

    • Dan L

      I fully agree. He signed some awful free agent contracts/extensions as GM. Truly Isiah-esque. It’s a definite weakness he displayed that I hope he could correct if he became an executive with the Knicks.

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