CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Charlotte Bobcats addressed coach Larry Brown's biggest concern on Thursday, acquiring power forward Tyrus Thomas from the Chicago Bulls just before the trade deadline.
Charlotte sent a future, protected first-round pick to Chicago, along with the expiring contracts of guards Flip Murray and Acie Law.
The Bobcats have lacked depth behind starting power forward Boris Diaw. They hope Thomas — who has clashed with coaches in the past — will provide needed rebounding and shot-blocking as they look to secure their first playoff berth.
"It's like getting a lottery pick in my mind," Brown said. "A young, big kid that's got a huge upside. He fills a lot of needs for us."
The 6-foot-10 Thomas is averaging 8.8 points and 6.3 rebounds and making $4.7 million in the final year of his contract. He'll be a restricted free agent this summer.
The Bobcats made another minor trade, acquiring veteran big man Theo Ratliff from San Antonio for a 2016 second-round pick.
It was a day of two trades for four expiring contracts for the Bulls, who are expected to be $18-20 million under the salary cap and poised to be a major player in free agency this summer. Chicago also acquired forwards Hakim Warrick and Joe Alexander from Milwaukee for guard John Salmons.
It may be a while before the Bulls get Charlotte's draft pick.
The NBA doesn't allow teams to trade first-round choices in consecutive years, and Minnesota — through a deal it made with Denver — is owed a Bobcats' pick.
The Timberwolves will get it this year if it's outside the top 12. There's a sliding protection on that original deal that could extend to 2014. The Bulls won't get Charlotte's pick, which is also lottery protected early, until two years after Minnesota does.
But for the Bulls, who also released forward Chris Richard to open a roster spot, it was all about clearing cap space.
"I believe he's still trending up and he's got a chance to reach that potential," Bulls GM Gar Forman said of Thomas. "The reality is his cap hold this summer is going to be so large that it was going to be a problem for us as trying to go out and attract free agents this summer."
The 23-year-old Thomas was the fourth overall pick in the 2006 draft — taken right after Bobcats part-owner Michael Jordan selected the disappointing Adam Morrison.
After spending just one season at LSU, Thomas has been inconsistent and far from dominant in the NBA. He missed seven weeks earlier this season with a broken left forearm. He's also been suspended twice, once for missing practice in 2008 and again earlier this month for conduct detrimental to the team.
"A lot of young kids are sometimes a little bit immature, maybe, or trying to realize how to handle a situation," Brown said. "But that's my job. We've got a great locker room and some really good leadership."
The two deals means Charlotte has made seven trades involving 21 players under the tinkering Brown in the past 16 months. General manager Rod Higgins said they talked to numerous teams until the Chicago deal came into play Thursday morning.
Brown had complained about Charlotte's lack of a true backup power forward for months. Thomas gives the Bobcats an athletic, rebounding big man that would seem to pair well with All-Star small forward Gerald Wallace
The deal also clears up Charlotte's logjam of guards, but Brown said they "tried everything we could" to try to keep Murray.
The 6-foot-3 shooting guard could pick up the scoring slack in Chicago for Salmons, who was averaging 12.7 points. Murray, who will join his ninth team, was averaging 9.9 points and shooting 31 percent from 3-point range while giving Charlotte a quick scoring burst off the bench behind Stephen Jackson and Raymond Felton.
The 6-3 Law, a backup point guard, played in only five games for Charlotte after being included in November's trade with Golden State for Jackson.
The Bobcats may need Thomas right away. They announced earlier Thursday that DeSagana Diop will miss up to two weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. Centers Nazr Mohammed (back) and Tyson Chandler (ankle) have missed practice the past two days.
The 6-foot-10 Ratliff, who turns 37 in April, could help short term with depth. Ratliff, averaging 1.6 points and 1.9 rebounds in 21 games, is making $1.3 million in the final year of his deal. He played under Brown in Philadelphia early in his career.
Brown said Thomas and Ratliff should play Friday against Cleveland.
AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to this report.