Minnesota also got Oklahoma City guard Damien Wilkins in the deal. Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn, who has been busy reshaping the roster he inherited from Kevin McHale, said the swap gives the team flexibility when it comes to the roster.
"We may have some other moves to make and it's still too early to tell," Kahn said. "I thought this move provided some additional flexibility and thought we should go after it now."
Thomas spent less than a month with the Timberwolves. The Tulsa native came over from Washington in the trade that eventually landed unsigned No. 5 overall draft pick Ricky Rubio in Minnesota. The Wolves also drafted another point guard, Jonny Flynn, with the sixth pick.
Since then, Kahn has shipped Sebastian Telfair -- the only remaining veteran point guard on the roster -- to the Clippers along with Mark Madsen and Craig Smith to get Quentin Richardson in a deal based almost solely on finances.
If Atkins sticks around, the 10-year veteran could replace Telfair as a much-needed mentor to the young point guards. He could also provide depth if Rubio, who has an enormous buyout clause in his contract with DKV Joventut, is forced to remain in Spain instead of playing for the Timberwolves this season.
Thunder general manager Sam Presti has spent the last two weeks shedding veterans who played diminishing minutes late last season. He waived veteran point guard Earl Watson earlier this month and now Thomas, 31, replaces the 34-year-old Atkins as the Thunder's oldest player.
The moves combine to give Oklahoma City more balance on their roster, which had been guard heavy.
"We see this as an opportunity to add some defensive mentality and some experience to our frontcourt, and we're excited to have Etan as part of our roster moving forward," Presti said.
Presti has also stockpiled five picks in next year's draft. This trade brought over Minnesota's second-round pick and whichever of the Timberwolves' other three second-round picks ends up last. The Thunder also have two first-round picks and their own second-round selection.
Thomas, who played at Booker T. Washington High School, will have a chance to play in his hometown Oct. 14 when the Thunder play Miami in a preseason game at Tulsa's BOK Center.
Wilkins, meanwhile, will be making a belated move to Minnesota four years after nearly joining the Timberwolves. Wilkins signed an offer sheet with the Timberwolves in 2005, but the SuperSonics -- who later moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder -- matched the offer for the restricted free agent and kept him.
The way Kahn is wheeling and dealing this summer, there's no telling how long Wilkins will be on the roster. Like Thomas, Wilkins and Atkins have expiring contracts.
"I think we will have other things to occur this summer and maybe even this week," Kahn said. "For now, the kinds of moves we've made have been for flexibility and for roster balance."
Kahn also is continuing his search for a head coach. The process was delayed by a trip to Spain last week to meet with Joventut officials about Rubio's buyout, a trip Kahn called "productive."
But Kahn said Monday that he is in the midst of the second and final round of interviews for the position. He declined to talk specifically about the field, but ESPN analyst Mark Jackson, Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis and Houston assistant Elston Turner have all been previously interviewed.
Kahn said he should have a decision by the start of August.