The Seattle Sonics are 9-23. They aren't going anywhere anytime soon. They also might have one of the least discussed but most valuable trading commodities on the market this season.
Kurt Thomas is 35 years old. He makes somewhere above $8 million this year, and his contract expires at year's end. Somehow, it is hard to see him as a cog in the Sonics' long-term plans for greatness.
What isn't so hard to see is Thomas making a huge difference for a relevant team this season if he gets the chance.
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Kurt Thomas is a legitimate big man.
He stands 6-foot-9 and weighs 235 pounds, and while he fits perfectly into the power forward's mold, the man can moonlight at center, too. He rebounds. He defends. He has learned to score when called upon. He has a mean streak. And he wants to win.
Thomas has always been able to rebound, but he might be doing that job better than ever this season. He is averaging 9.8 rebounds per game (the second highest total of his 13-year career), but he is doing it in just shy of 25 minutes per game, putting him on pace for 15.8 rebounds per 40 minutes. That's absurd. Period.
The numbers even tell a good part of the story defensively for Thomas. When Thomas isn't on the floor, the Sonics' defensive efficiency is abominable, as the Sonics give up 110.3 points per 100 possessions sans his presence. With KT providing a physical presence in the middle, that figure drops to 103.7 points per 100 possessions.
The numbers don't tell the rest of the story. Since his days with the Knicks, Thomas has been known as a blue-collar player who is willing to do whatever it takes for the team. Known for his hot head in earlier days, Thomas has cooled down considerably over the past five years, reducing his anger on the floor and channeling his energy into becoming an excellent presence on defense and the glass. Pound for pound, he remains one of the toughest players in the NBA and isn't backing down from anybody. Last spring, he provided the Suns' with their only true option for putting forth a reasonable effort to stop Tim Duncan. He has become a veteran leader by word in the locker room and by example on the basketball court. Defense and rebounding, defense and rebounding: The two most important tenets of a big man's game, Thomas has taken care of.
He has come a long way on the offensive end, too. Toward the end of his tenure in New York, Thomas put in a lot of work on his midrange game, and he has managed to greatly improve his shooting in that 12-to-18-feet range. He sets hard screens and has become adept at the pick-and-pop with his ability to knock down open looks from the wings and elbows.
And beyond all else, Kurt Thomas is a guy who wants to win. He will bang on the glass all day. He will dive on the floor, into the stands and anywhere else necessary to save a loose ball. He will fight to the death for his teammates, and he isn't giving any ground up to anyone in this league inside.
This is a player who will provide immediate help for any contending team.
Kurt Thomas just needs an opportunity.
And more than enough teams need someone like him.