The Mavericks team that beat the Thunder in five games last May en route to the NBA title is not the same Maverick team that comes to Oklahoma City on Saturday for a first-round playoff series. A look at the major roster changes:
Gone: Tyson Chandler. Signed by the Knickerbockers as a free agent, Chandler was a force against the Thunder last season. His plus/minus in the five-game series was plus-36. Dallas outscored OKC by 36 points with Chandler on the court, a huge number in a series in which every game was tight. Chandler protected the paint and rebounded like a demon (10.6 per game).
Replaced by: Brendan Haywood. Haywood played 10.7 minutes a game in the playoffs last season. But now he's the man in the middle. Haywood is a solid defender, but he's no Tyson Chandler. Ian Mahinmi has replaced Haywood as the backup center.
BACKUP POINT GUARD
Gone: J.J. Barea. Signed by the Timberwolves as a free agent. A total thorn in the Thunder flesh, Barea scored 21 points in 16 minutes in Game 1 of the West finals a year ago. He constantly kept the Thunder (and the Lakers in the previous round) frustrated with his penetration into the lane.
Replaced by: Rodrique Beaubois. Actually drafted by the Thunder in 2009 before being immediately traded to Dallas, Beaubois has played well for the Mavs this season, averaging 21.7 minutes and 8.9 points. His shooting is spotty (42.2 percent, less than 30 percent from 3-point range), but his defense is an upgrade over Barea's.
Gone: DeShawn Stevenson. Signed as a free agent by the Nets. Stevenson was a defensive specialist for Dallas. He averaged 19:50 per game in the playoff series last year and made just six of 28 shots. But he drew the assignment on Kevin Durant early in the game and then often late, giving Shawn Marion much-needed relief. And Durant did not have a strong series, making just 24 of 64 shots the final three games.
Replaced by: Delonte West. Much more of an offensive threat, West has shot 46.1 percent from the field and averaged 9.6 points a game. He's made 33 starts, and he's actually filled Barea's role to some extent, as an excellent penetrator.
Gone: Peja Stojakovic: Retired. By last season, Peja was a shell of his former self. But he still occasionally nailed some big shots for the Mavs. In five games against OKC, Peja averaged just 5.0 points a game, but he was a plus-15 for the Mavs in their pivotal Game 3 victory in Oklahoma City.
Replaced by: Vince Carter. Carter actually is older (35) this season than Stojakovic was last season (33). But Carter is a better player. Carter has averaged 25.3 minutes and 10.1 points a game. His shooting is sporadic (41.1 percent this season), but he still can deliver big blows, like the go-ahead 3-pointer he drilled in the final seconds of that wild Thunder-Dallas game on Dec. 29.