The Seattle SuperSonics joined the NBA in 1976. Sadly, the franchise had to leave Seattle some three decades later to establish the Oklahoma City Tunder. Be it the SuperSonics or the Thunder, this franchise has had its fair share of memorable trades over the years of its existence. Today we’re going to look at the best Thunder trades in franchise history, which also include Sonics trades given the context.
Below are our Top 5 picks for the best trade deals in franchise history.
5. The Haul of the 2019 Offseason
Traded Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers for Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and seven future first-round picks.
Traded Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul, and four future first-round picks.
This could very well end up as the greatest set of trades not only in Sonics/Thunder franchise history, but that of the entire NBA as well. In the summer of 2019, the Tunder traded away their two best players in Paul George and Russell Westbrook — who both wanted out — and the haul they got in return was simply unprecedented. Not only did they get a veteran sharpshooter in Danilo Gallinari, a tremendous young prospect in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and a future Hall of Famer in Chris Paul, but they also pretty much secured their future by acquiring no less than 11 (!) future first-round pick.
The only reason we’ve ranked this fifth on our list today is because as of writing, these deals have yet to deliver any real results. We fully expected this haul to climb up in the rankings over the years.
4. Dale Ellis (1986, 1997)
’86: Traded from the Dallas Mavericks or Al Wood.
’97: Traded from the Denver Nuggets for Greg Graham, Steve Scheffler, and two future second-round picks.
The Sonics loved Ellis so much that they traded for him not once, but twice — and for good reason.
After spending the first three years of his career with the Dallas Mavericks, Ellis came to life as soon as he arrived in Seattle in 1986. From averaging just 7.1 points per game in his final season with the Mavs, he exploded to 24.9 points per contest the following season with the Sonics, making him the runaway winner of that season’s Most Improved Player award. In his third year in Seattle, Ellis garnered his one and only All-Star call up in his career.
In 1991, the Sonics traded away Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Ricky Pierce. It didn’t take too long for him to make his triumphant return to Seattle, though, with the team trading for him again six years later from the Denver Nuggets. He was already 37 at that point, however, and was a far cry from the tremendous scorer he once was. Still, it was great to get him back to the team during the Gary Payton-Shawn Kemp era.
3. Shawn Kemp (1986)
Traded from the Philadelphia 76ers (as a future first-round pick) with Clemon Johnson for Tim McCormick and Danny Vranes.
Shawn Kemp teamed up with Payton in Seattle to form one of the most fearsome pairings in the NBA during the ’90s. The Sonics drafted Kemp with the 17th overall pick in 1989, and the only reason why they were able to do so was because they acquired the pick from the Philadelphia 76ers some three years prior.
This turned out to be a stroke of genius, with Kemp serving as the team’s cornserstone big man for years to come. Kemp played in Seattle for eight memorable season, being named an All-Star for five consecutive years. The high-flying 6-foot-10 forward/center logged career averages of 16.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game.
2. Ray Allen (2003)
Traded from the Milwaukee Bucks with Ronald Murray, Kevin Ollie and a first-round pick for Desmond Mason and Gary Payton.
Easily one of the greatest Sonics player of all-time, and also one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, Hall of Fame two-guard Ray Allen ranks as the second-best trade this franchise has ever pulled off.
Allen was a bona fide superstar when Seattle traded for him in 2003, and they had to pay the price to get their man. This came in the form of a key role player in Desmond Mason and the legendary Gary Payton, who himself is arguably the greatest Sonic of all time. Granted that Payton was already 34 at that time and already nearing the end of his career, but still it was a steep price to pay.
It all paid off handsomely for Seattle, however, with Allen producing the best stint of his decorated career in his five seasons with the Sonics. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard made four consecutive appearances in the All-Star squad, and put up averages of 24.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.3 steals, while knocking down 2.9 triples per contest on a 38.6-percent clip.
1. Gary Payton (1989)
Traded from the Golden State Warriors (as a future first-round pick) for Alton Lister.
Ray Allen was a great player, but few will argue against the notion that Payton is the GOAT for the SuperSonics.
What makes this deal interesting is that Seattle actually traded away this future draft pick to the Golden State Warriors in June of 1989, which the Sonics used to select Dana Barros in the ’89 Draft.
A couple of months later, the Sonics traded for the pick again, this time sending over Alton Lister to the Warriors. The front office probably had a gut feel that this future draft pick would have a tremendous impact on their franchise moving forward, and as it turns out, they were absolutely correct.
This pick became the second overall pick in 1990, which they used on Payton. The Glove spent 13 seasons with the Sonics, making no less than nine All-Star appearances. In 1996, Payton led the Sonics to their first Finals appearance since winning the title nearly two decades prior.
Nonetheless, that is it with our look at our best Thunder trades (and Sonics trades) in franchise history.