When I saw that the Sonics had traded Kurt Thomas to San Antonio for Brent Barry, Francisco Elson and a first round pick, I immediately envisioned a post about how the Sonics ended up getting THREE first round draft picks in two separate transactions for Thomas - two from the Suns when they acquired him, and one from the Spurs when they gave him up. It must surely be the first time that a player, being traded by himself, brought first round picks both coming in the door and going out the door.
But Nate Jones beat me to punch on this subject. Well played Nate.
And well played Sam Presti. This is an amazing turn of events. And to be fair, it did cost the Sonics something. It cost them money (and a second round pick). By paying Thomas' $8M+ salary this season (and now Elson and Barry's equivalent salaries, still for just this season), Presti basically bought 3 first round picks for $8M. (And oh yeah, the Sonics also got the services of Kurt Thomas, a pretty good player, for most of this season.)
In the NBA, sometimes money is just money, and sometimes it's more - like cap flexibility. In this case, since the Sonics were in the no man's land between the salary cap and the luxury tax threshold with or without Thomas' $8M, it was just money. And since Presti didn't take on any long term commitments, they're still on course to have lots of cap space in two summers when Wally Szczerbiak comes off the books.
So Presti just paid a little over $8M for an extra first round draft pick in each of the next three drafts. Late first round draft picks in all likelihood (although the Suns' pick in 2010, when Shaq is 37 and Nash is 36 could end up being pretty good) - but first rounders nonetheless. In the cap constrained world of the NBA, when you can get basketball talent in exchange for money, you do it every time.
Last point on this Sonics-Spurs trade. Ralph and Mike were saying last night that Barry is likely to be bought out by the Sonics and re-sign with the Spurs. Certainly when I saw the deal I found it surprising that the Spurs would be willing to part with Barry, who is one of the shooters the team needs to make their offense work. BUT... with the new rule about waiting 30 days, it would seem Barry would be ineligible for the playoffs, since playoff rosters have to be set by March 1. Does anyone know exactly how that works?