Suns gain $8M trade exception by trading Thomas

Updated: July 20, 2007, 6:08 PM ET
Associated Press

Kurt Thomas


SEATTLE -- The Seattle SuperSonics acquired veteran forward Kurt Thomas and the Phoenix Suns' first-round draft choices in 2008 and 2010 on Friday in exchange for a conditional second-round draft choice.

Seattle also sent Phoenix its $8 million trade exception to complete the deal. The Sonics gained the exception from Orlando earlier this month when they completed a sign-and-trade deal that sent Rashard Lewis to the Magic.

Thomas, who turns 35 in October, averaged a career-low 4.6 points per game in 67 games last season while averaging just 18 minutes. But he does provide the veteran presence Seattle was seeking to tutor Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, the second and fifth overall selections in last month's draft.

The Suns, who made the move to cut salary following the signing of Grant Hill, were willing to give up the first-round picks because they believe they can win an NBA title now and have plenty of young talent already.

The Sonics, who finished 31-51 last season, traded leading scorer Ray Allen to Boston last month. Then Lewis, their second-leading scorer, joined Orlando.

Seattle now holds five first-round picks over the next three drafts.

"The picks are huge for us," said new Sonics general manager Sam Presti, the league's youngest GM at 30.

Thomas comes at the price the rebuilding Sonics were seeking. He has one season left on a contract that will pay him $8.1 million next season.

The deal provides some salary cap relief for Phoenix, which had the NBA's fourth-highest payroll last season at $76.4 million. Before Friday's trade, the Suns figured to be about $10 million over the luxury tax limit next season.

Earlier this month, the Suns signed veteran Grant Hill to a contract that will pay him about $1.8 million for the 2007-08 season. They also traded forward James Jones and the draft rights to Spanish guard Rudy Fernandez, the 24th overall pick in the draft, to Portland for $3 million.

"We are doing everything we can to keep our core group together," said Suns general manager Steve Kerr. "Sometimes in doing so, you have difficult decisions to make."

Thomas, who played for Miami, Dallas and New York before coming to Phoenix, has averaged 10.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game during his 12-year career.

"Kurt really represents the identity we are trying to develop. He's a tough, hard-nosed and defensive-minded player, and a true professional," Presti said. "He's a veteran presence to enhance the locker room."

The Suns acquired Thomas from the Knicks to provide some front-line toughness. Thomas was plagued by injuries in Phoenix but was a key player in the San Antonio series, where he usually guarded Tim Duncan one-on-one. But he was considered expendable given owner Robert Sarver's desire to stay beneath the luxury cap, or at least not too far over it.

"We feel good going forward having our core group of players under contract for several years, including the recent addition of free agent Grant Hill," Kerr said in a news release. "The bottom line is there are tough decisions to make, but we have flexibility and our core together. We really like the group of players we've assembled and feel we can make a legitimate run for an NBA championship next season."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press