Etan Thomas Trade Recap

Apparently the front page is a bit behind the ol' eight ball as the Oklahoma City Thunder have traded for center Etan Thomas from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, here's ElectricPencils' original FanPost on the trade. Futhermore, manifestus put together a nice collection of thoughts on the trade in another FanPost. Before I delve into a variety of different things about the trade, let's just post some snippets from the official site:

The Thunder balanced its roster, added depth to the frontcourt and continued to stockpile draft picks with its acquisition of center Etan Thomas on Monday. The Thunder picked up the rugged, physical Thomas from the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for guards Damien Wilkins and Chucky Atkins.

Obviously, the official site has a bit of rhetorical flourish - calling Thomas "rugged" and "physical". We'll take a look, after the jump, at what was all included in the deal, and the positives for the team. Follow the link below!


Etan Thomas

#N/A / Center / Oklahoma City Thunder

6-10

260

Apr 01, 1978

Syracuse


Etan Thomas was acquired in exchange for SG Damien Wilkins and PG Chucky Atkins. In addition to receiving Thomas, the Thunder also received a couple of draft picks. Once again, here's the pieces in the trade:

Thunder Receive

C  Etan Thomas
Minnesota's 2010 2nd Round Draft Pick
A conditional 2010 2nd Round Draft Pick

Timberwolves Receive

SG  Damien Wilkins
PG  Chucky Atkins

This move does a couple of things for the Thunder. Obviously, they now have five - count 'em five - draft picks in the 2010 NBA Draft. The Thunder will have their own 2010 first round pick, in addition to Phoenix's first round pick. They also own their own second round pick, Minnesota's second round pick, and the conditional second round pick. This bodes well in what is projected to be a very strong draft class.

If you look at the salaries by themselves, Etan Thomas instantly becomes the Thunder's highest paid player. He will earn $7.355 MIL next season. Chucky Atkins and Damien Wilkins combined will make $6.780 MIL. Therefore, the Thunder's total salary for next season increased by about $575,000 with this move. All three players have expiring deals after this season. The Thunder are well under the cap, so the minor increase in salary should not be a big problem.

Basically this was a move to create some frontcourt depth for this season, unload a couple of players that would not get much playing time anyways, and accumulate some more draft picks for a very strong draft. All in all, there isn't much downside to this deal - a low risk and variable reward transaction.

Despite all the good news here, Thomas suffered quite a downfall in production last year. His FG% fell almost 9 points, his per-36-minute scoring rate fell by 2 points, his per-36-minute rebounding rate fell by 3 boards, and his player efficiency rating plummeted from 15.6 in 2006-2007 to 10.1 in 2008-2009. He was battling some injuries, and it's tough to tell if he'll be the same player he once was.

Perhaps more alarmingly, while playing center, Thomas posted a PER of 10.1, while opponents posted a 24.2 PER. This basically means that he was significantly outplayed by other centers on the floor. On average, his man would have outscored him by about 10 points in a 48 minute period, outrebounded him by 5 in the same period, and outshot him by about 16.4%.

So, while the Thunder wait to see if Thomas will regain his old form, he'll likely log similar minutes (or perhaps less) to last year (11.8 mpg) with other players getting more playing time. However, consider the following comparison of career splits:

Career Splits Normalized for 36-minute Production
(points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, turnovers, FG%, True Shooting%, PER)

Etan Thomas:   12.0, 9.9, 0.8, 0.7, 2.2, 2.0, 51.6%, 54.8%, 14.9
Nenad Krstic:  14.9, 7.7, 1.3, 0.5, 1.1 1.9, 48.9%, 53.0%, 13.6
Nick Collison:   12.0, 6.5, 1.4, 0.8, 1.0, 1.8, 52.2%, 55.8%, 14.6
Jeff Green:   15.0, 6.3, 1.9, 0.9, 0.6, 2.3, 43.9%, 51.8%, 12.2

The point is, if Thomas can boost his numbers closer to his career averages, then he would likely be one of the most solid contributors that the Thunder could field at the 4 or 5. Assuming everyone else is around their career averages as well, Thomas would be, by far, the most efficient rebounder on the team.

At worst, the Thunder have added a guy who may only be able to contribute a few minutes and is in the downward slope of his career production, but will provide some depth on the bench for the frontcourt. At best, the Thunder have significantly improved their rebounding for a year, and have added a big contributor in the rotation. Either way, they will have two more draft picks next year.

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