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. Chandler has two years remaining on his contract after this season worth $24.6 million but can opt out of the final year of his deal before the start of the 2010-11 season. Despite adding Chandler’s contract, which pays him $11.8 million next season, the Thunder is still in a good position financially moving forward. Oklahoma City could have $10 million in cap space next summer and Chandler’s contract comes off the books one year before an extension would kick in for Durant and Green. New Orleans future cap situation isn’t as promising, which opened the door for Tuesday’s trade. The Hornets, with just the contracts of Chandler, Chris Paul, David West, Peja Stojakovic and James Posey, would have had more than $55 million in salary tied up for next season. The salary cap this season is $58.68 million and the luxury tax is set at $71.15 million. Any team above the luxury tax threshold must pay $1 for every $1 in salary they exceed that figure. In Wilcox and Smith, the Hornets get two contracts that expire at the end of this season and lower their payroll to $64 million in 2009-10. Wilcox fell out of the Thunder’s rotation this season and did not play in nine of the team’s past 17 games. He is averaging 8.4 points and 5.1 rebounds this season. Smith is averaging 6.6 points and 4.5 rebounds but had missed 10 straight games from mid-January to early February because of a knee injury. Chandler, Smith and Wilcox are all expected to be inactive tonight when the Thunder hosts the Hornets.