Sonics get forward Thomas, two 1st-round picks from Suns


The stockpiling 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 in 2009.

Seattle also used its $8 million trade exception with Phoenix 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.

New Sonics general manager Sam Presti, the league's youngest GM at age 30, has turned Lewis' imminent departure for nothing as an unrestricted free agent into an unexpected windfall. While losing their second-leading scorer to the Magic, Seattle has gained two more first round draft choices and the veteran leader they were seeking to tutor Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, the second and fifth overall selections in last month's draft.

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

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

"The picks are huge for us," Presti said in a telephone interview Friday morning.

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. The former member of the Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks and Suns 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."

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, meaning they are unlikely to use the trade exception they just acquired from Seattle before it expires in 12 months.

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. Sometimes in doing so, you have difficult decisions to make," said Suns general manager Steve Kerr.

"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. 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 weve assembled and feel we can make a legitimate run for an NBA championship next season."

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