Etan Thomas Should Help Protect Durant
According to Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman, the Thunder are close to acquiring Thomas from Minnesota in a trade for reserve guards Damien Wilkins and Chucky Atkins, neither of whom were expected to help Durant very much. The Thunder also will be getting a second-round pick in 2010.
Thomas went to Minnesota earlier this summer from Washington, along with the No 5 pick in the draft, as part of the deal that sent Mike Miller and Randy Foye to the Wizards.
Thomas is well known as the center who returned last season after being struck by a serious illness that required open heart surgery in 2007. Before that illness, though, Thomas often provided the inside toughness that the Wizards needed with a mostly offensive-minded lineup.
Thomas, a 6-9, 260-pounder who was born in Harlem, N.Y., isn't all that athletic or basketball skilled, but his role with the Wizards often was to help toughen up more talented center Brendan Haywood. More than once, he and Haywood came to blows in practice.
As the Thunder try and build a team around Durant, a superstar in the making, they are beginning to understand they can't allow teams to get too physical defending Durant without providing him with some physical protection, which explains the need for Thomas.
The Thunder already have penciled in Nenad Krstic as their starting center, but he is far from a banger who can take or deliver much physical play. Before getting Thomas, they would have had to use power forward Nick Collison as Krstic's backup. They drafted Ohio State center B.J. Mullens, but he is s few years ago from providing serious support.
Thomas is scheduled to make $7.35 million in the final year of his contract. For the Wolves, the trade may be more of a salary dump than anything. Wilkins has one year remaining at $3.3 million, while Atkins has only $760,000 of his $3.48 million contract guaranteed.