While other teams jostled for big-name free-agent signings and blockbuster trades just days into this offseason, Oklahoma City remained patient and refused to blow its budget.
But in one stroke on Monday, the Thunder landed two draft picks and one burly big man in a trade that might give the team a boost both now and in the future.
The Thunder acquired 6-foot-10 center Etan Thomas and two 2010 second-round selections from Minnesota and sent reserve guards Damien Wilkins and Chucky Atkins to the Timberwolves.
Thomas, a Tulsa native who won two state titles at Booker T. Washington High before jumping to Syracuse, could be the enforcer the Thunder lacked last season with his mix of rebounding, toughness, shot-blocking and physical play. Thomas, 31, also gives the Thunder a quality backup to starting center Nenad Krstic and allows Nick Collison to spend more time next season at his customary power forward position.
“We are pleased to welcome Etan Thomas to the Thunder family,” said Thunder general manager Sam Presti through a statement. “Etan adds experience and depth to our frontcourt as well as a defensive mentality and competitiveness that we value.”
The Thunder will receive the Wolves’ second-round pick in next year’s draft, and Minnesota will ship a 2010 conditional second-round pick to Oklahoma City. The Thunder will get the lesser of the second-round slots between Houston, Portland and Chicago.
The deal bumps Oklahoma City’s pick total in 2010 to five, including its own first- and second-round selections as well as Phoenix’s unprotected first-round pick.
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 financial flexibility.
Originally the 12th overall pick in 2000 by Dallas, Thomas was traded to Washington in 2001 before appearing in a game with the Mavericks. He holds career averages of 6.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 17.9 minutes throughout his seven professional seasons.
Thomas has been plagued by injuries and illness since turning pro, missing the entire 2007-08 season following open heart surgery to mend a leaking aortic valve.