The art of the deal: Ray Allen trade helped build Thunder's nucleus

How the Ray Allen-Jeff Green trade became the basis for setting two franchises on their separate ways

BY DARNELL MAYBERRY Published: December 4, 2009
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Nick Collison hated to see his old friend Ray Allen shipped out on draft night back in 2007. But Collison knew the move needed to be made.

"All along, I felt like it made sense,” Collison said. "It wasn’t like we were breaking up a team that had a ton of success. It was just one of those things that had to be done.

"I think it was the right decision. I think we’re set up pretty good now for the future.”

It was Allen’s trade that set two franchises on their separate ways, giving the Thunder its promising future and Boston its 17th championship.

But the deal was misunderstood and unpopular at the time. The trade, announced on ESPN seconds before NBA commissioner David Stern announced Kevin Durant as the No. 2 overall pick, was met by a chorus of boos at the team’s draft party at Fisher Pavilion in Seattle.

Allen was a seven-time All-Star and the face of the Sonics’ franchise. Many thought Durant teaming with Allen and Rashard Lewis would be enough to get the Sonics back into the playoffs.

But general manager Sam Presti always had the long-term plan in mind. He agreed to deal Allen and a second-round pick to Boston in exchange for the No. 5 overall pick, Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West. The fifth pick turned into Jeff Green and marked the beginning of the franchise’s rebuilding.

Two years later, it’s easy to add up the pieces and see how the puzzle has come together.

Presti’s main goal was to get away from mediocrity. The Sonics were coming off a 31-win season and were a 35-win team the year before that.

"We don’t want our championships to be making the playoffs,” Presti told Seattle reporters following the trade. "What we want is sustained success. We want long-term growth, and we want the opportunity to see our group growing within an aligned timeline.”

Allen was 31 at the time and had just undergone surgery on both ankles. He also had three years and more than $52 million remaining on his contract. Even Allen admitted at the time that, "The team has been floundering in the Northwest (division) the last couple of seasons. It almost seemed appropriate for change at this point.”

Fans, however, charged Presti with sabotaging the Sonics, even taking a less talented player in Green rather than the hyped Chinese star Yi Jianlian, all with the alleged goal of helping ownership move the franchise to Oklahoma City.

But what fans couldn’t see is the value the Sonics had acquired.