Blazers interested in Bulls’ Thomas, source says

A league source confirmed to The Columbian on Thursday that the Portland Trail Blazers are highly interested in Chicago Bulls forward Tyrus Thomas.

The source said the Blazers’ are intrigued by Thomas’ youth and his shot-blocking abilities. In addition, Thomas would fit in well with Portland’s timeline and current roster needs.

Yahoo! Sports originally reported that the Blazers offered either Steve Blake or Travis Outlaw — both of whom have expiring contracts — and two future second-round draft picks for Thomas. The Bulls reportedly declined the deal, though, because they want more value in return.

Thomas, a fourth-year forward out of Louisiana State, is averaging 8.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.1 assists for Chicago this season. He has only played in 27 games, though, due to an absence caused by a fractured radius in his left forearm.

Thomas’ best season came in 2008-09, when he averaged 10.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. He is averaging 7.8 points and 5.1 boards during his career.

The 6-foot-10, 225-pound Thomas is set to make $4.7 million this season. He will then become a restricted free agent. The Bulls hold a $6.2 million qualifying offer on Thomas in 2010-11.

The Blazers have long been interested in Thomas. Portland originally selected him with the fourth overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. But the Blazers traded Thomas’ draft rights and Viktor Khryapa to the Bulls on June 28, 2006 in exchange for the rights to LaMarcus Aldridge and a second-round pick.

Should the Blazers acquire Thomas, he would likely provide Portland with the inside depth and toughness it has lacked since centers Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla were lost for the season due to knee injuries.

The Blazers (31-24) sit in eighth place in the Western Conference standings heading into the NBA All-Star break. Portland is ranked fourth out of five teams in the Northwest Division, five games behind first-place Denver.

The Blazers will have 25 games remaining after the break to make a playoff push. The team’s chances should be bolstered by the expected return of injured All-Star guard Brandon Roy and Travis Outlaw.

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