The Chicago Bulls traded Tyrus Thomas to the Charlotte Bobcats for Flip Murray, Acie Law and a protected, future first-round draft choice.
"We feel the future first-round pick will be important as we continue to build," Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. "It's a chip we'll be able to use whether to acquire a player or via trade down the road."
Forman said on "The Afternoon Saloon" on ESPN 1000 that the first year for the pick would be 2012, and it would be lottery protected that year. Forman said the protection would decrease each year after that for "four or five years."
Forman also said it was important not to gut a team that went into action Thursday tied for sixth in the Eastern Conference.
"It's important to remain in the playoff hunt," he said. "We wanted our team to remain competitive and try to get as high a seed as we can get. And we feel we did that.
"Our starters are intact, and we feel we added some depth and some versatility."
Thomas will be a restricted free agent after this season. Thomas is averaging 8.8 points and 6.3 rebounds. Inconsistency has plagued Thomas, who has been an impact player at times with his athleticism and shot-blocking ability.
Murray is averaging 9.9 points and 21.6 minutes while Law is averaging just 7.1 minutes per game. Both players have expiring contracts.
The Bulls acquired two more expiring contracts earlier Thursday in a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks as they try to clear as much cap space as possible for this summer's free-agent class.
The Bulls also released Chris Richard.
2012 loittery protected, protection goes down each year for four or five years.