This week SB Nation's basketball writers are joining together to write about each franchise's greatest trade in team history. We are acutely aware of the ongoing strife regarding the history of the Thunder franchise and how just about everyone involved would like the Thunder history and the SuperSonics' history bifurcated. We'll try to appease both. First up, the greatest THUNDER trade, and second, (one of the greatest) Sonics trades in history.
Be sure to check out the entire SB Nation collection of these Best. Trades. Ever. when you have a moment.
February 24, 2011 likely will go down as one of the biggest moments in the Thunder's albeit brief history, as for the first time the team's management decided to give up one of their building blocks to chase a veteran.
If you're new to the NBA or did not follow the last few seasons closely, the Thunder are a team that moved from Seattle (the erstwhile SuperSonics) and began building a new identity in Oklahoma City. Coming with the franchise was a bevy of young talent, including Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Jeff Green. This trio was to form the core of the Thunder and their quest to make a name for themselves.
Halfway through the 2010-2011 season, one thing had become clear. As talented as the trio was, as engaging and eye-friendly their games were, there was something missing with the Thunder's core. While OKC could score points with anyone, they seemed to be missing a certain toughness to their game and more often than not the weakness seemed to come from Green, who was often forced to play out of position at the power forward spot. With the perimeter-oriented Nenad Krstic playing at center, OKC would not have the frontline strength to contend with the Lakers and Spurs in the West.
That is when GM Sam Presti pulled the trigger.
Perkins was everything that the Thunder seemed to be missing: interior toughness, defense, rebounding, and championship experience. Perkins was also a local guy (he went to high school in Beaumont, TX) who had home town values and fit right into the Thunder identity. He worked hard, played hard, and held himself accountable while keeping others accountable as well.
Over time, this trade has borne itself out heavily in the Thunder's favor. Perkins helped launch the Thunder into a two year run which culminated in a Western Conference Finals appearance in Year 1 and a Finals appearance in Year 2. He has played through injury, adversity, and all of the scrutiny that comes with being the center on a championship contending team. As we saw in last year's playoffs, Perkins was the perfect antidote for the big men who ruled the West (Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol).
Unfortunately for the Celtics, Green has struggled to find his niche and missed the entire 2011-12 season with a heart abnormality. The Celtics however just re-signed Green to a new contract, so we are hopeful that Green will soon be a major contributor for the Celtics' playoff run.
I am neither an expert in Sonics history nor am I even adequately prepared to discuss the team trades that impacted the franchise throughout the years, but since there is no other team who can give them their due in this project, I'll offer at least one piece of history as tribute. This time, it is another Perkins.
On February 22, 1993, the Sonics sent two players of marginal talent, Doug Christie and Benoit Benjamin, to their rivals the Lakers in exchange for Sam Perkins. Nicknamed "Big Smooth," Perkins was a latter day version of many of the big men we see today. He was tall, long, agile, and had shooting range out to the 3-point line.
Perkins spent the next six seasons with the Sonics, pairing up with the memorable crew that included Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Kendall Gill, Detlef Schremph, and Nate McMillan. Their work culminated in a remarkable 1996 season where the Sonics won 66 games and likely would have won the whole thing were it not for the Chicago Bulls' historic run in the same season.
Those are our best trades ever suggestions, so let us year yours!