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How The Thunder Benefited From One Of The Worst Trades In NBA History

by Darnell Mayberry Published: December 13, 2011
Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (left) would not be with the Thunder if GM Sam Presti didn't once trade for Kurt Thomas.
Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (left) would not be with the Thunder if GM Sam Presti didn't once trade for Kurt Thomas.

Everyone wants to, or has been asked to, weigh in on the vetoed Chris Paul trade to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Emotions have ranged from outrage to downright distrust.

While expressing his opinion in an interview with a San Francisco radio station, TNT analyst Steve Kerr sounded off about his anger. Kerr, a five-time champion during his 15 NBA seasons, called the nixed three-team deal “a great basketball trade.” He then admitted that, generally, that’s not the case throughout the league. The most interesting part came when Kerr confessed that even he pulled the trigger on one of those not-so-great trades in basketball history back when he was president of the Phoenix Suns.

There are so many trades made these days that are lousy trades that are made for financial purposes. I mean, I made (when he was Suns President) one of the worst trades in NBA history. I traded Kurt Thomas and two first-round picks to Seattle for nothing, to save $16 million for our organization. Where was the NBA then to veto that trade for basketball reasons?”

That was then-Sonics GM Sam Presti at work. I’ve written about the creativeness of this deal and its impact on the present day Thunder roster on several occasions.

First and foremost, Presti was able to acquire Thomas and his $8.1 million contract only because he jettisoned Rashard Lewis to Orlando in a sign-and-trade rather than agreeing to give him an albatross contract of $118 million over six seasons. Many Seattle fans at the time swore not re-signing Lewis was a part of a grand plan to blow up the team so it could move to Oklahoma City. But Presti used part of the $9 million trade exception he obtained from Orlando in that sign-and-trade to take on Thomas (and essentially pilfer to two first round picks, one in 2008 and another in 2010) without giving up anything more than a conditional second-round selection.

Presti then shipped Thomas to San Antonio at the trade deadline that same season for Brent Barry, Francisco Elson and a 2009 first-round pick.

In the end, it was a work of art.

The 2008 first-rounder turned into Serge Ibaka, once an unknown prospect and now the Thunder’s starting power forward.

The 2009 pick from San Antonio became Byron Mullens.

The 2010 pick was packaged to land the Thunder Cole Aldrich.


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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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