The Thunder is on the verge of beefing up its frontcourt.
Oklahoma City is close to acquiring reserve center Etan Thomas from Minnesota, The Oklahoman has learned. In exchange for the 6-foot-10 Tulsa native, the Thunder has agreed to send the Timberwolves reserve guards Damien Wilkins and Chucky Atkins.
Under the proposed deal, the Thunder also would get Minnesota’s second-round pick in 2010 and perhaps one more second-rounder as additional compensation. The Thunder would have five total draft picks in 2010, including its own first- and second-round picks and Phoenix’s unprotected first-round selections.
The move gives the Thunder an experienced big man to play behind starting center Nenad Krstic and should allow Nick Collison to play more time in his customary power forward position.
For the Wolves, the deal appears to be nothing more than a salary dump. Wilkins’ $3.3 million contract is guaranteed for next season, but only $760,000 of Atkins’ expiring $3.48 million contract is guaranteed for 2009-10.
Thomas is owed $7.35 million in the final year of his contract, meaning the Thunder is gaining short-term relief in the middle while only slightly adding to its payroll and still maintaining its long-term flexibility.
Thomas, a product of Tulsa’s Booker T. Washington High, is entering his eighth season out of Syracuse. He holds career averages of 6.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 17.9 minutes. Thomas was the 12th overall pick in 2000 by Dallas but was immediately traded to Washington. He has been plagued by injuries and illness during his seven seasons with the Wizards, missing the entire 2007-08 season with a heart condition that required open heart surgery before returning to basketball in 2008-09.
Washington sent Thomas, 31, to Minnesota in a multi-player trade two days before June’s NBA Draft.
Wilkins and Atkins were both in the final years of their contracts but weren’t in the plans going forward. Wilkins, 29, averaged 5.3 points, 1.7 rebounds and 15.5 minutes in 41 games last year and grew frustrated as the season went on. He faced even less playing time with the addition of No. 3 overall pick James Harden and Thabo Sefolosha returning for a full season.
Atkins was acquired in the January trade that sent Johan Petro to Denver. The 34-year-old point guard played in only 18 games and averaged 3.9 points and 1.7 assists in 16.6 minutes for the Thunder.
The deal also frees up another roster spot, now putting the Thunder at 12 players under contract.