The Thunder has taken a major step in its continued efforts of establishing a defensive identity.
Oklahoma City acquired 7-foot-1 center Tyson Chandler in a trade with New Orleans on Tuesday, surrounding Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook with an anchor in the middle who’s carved out a career through rebounding and shot-blocking. The Thunder sent Joe Smith, Chris Wilcox and the draft rights to DeVon Hardin, the 50th overall pick in the 2008 draft, to the Hornets. “We are pleased to welcome Tyson Chandler to the Thunder organization,” said Thunder general manager Sam Presti. “We are excited to add a young, defensive-minded big man that we feel can help us now and in the future. Tyson has ties to the Oklahoma City community and we are excited to have him with us as we continue to build our organization.” Chandler, 26, played one season as a member of the Hornets during the team’s two-year stay in Oklahoma City in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It was during the 2006-07 season that Chandler blossomed into one of the league’s best young defensive-minded centers, averaging 9.5 points, 12.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 73 games. Chandler averaged 11.8 points and 11.7 rebounds in 79 games with the Hornets last season but has been plagued by injuries this season. He’s missed 18 games, including the past 12 because of a sprained ankle, and is averaging 8.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 32 games. In his first season with the Hornets, Chandler helped New Orleans go from a rebounding differential of minus-0.2 in 2005-06 to plus-2.3 in 2006-07 and increased the Hornets’ blocked shots from 3.7 per game to 4.2 per game. The Thunder is now banking on Chandler growing with the current trio of Durant, Green and Westbrook and having a similar impact on Oklahoma City, which currently ranks among the league worst in several defensive categories.