However, the Mavs now find themselves in a much different place. The team has been off for nearly two months after finishing 41-41—good for only 10th place in the Western Conference—and failing to make the NBA playoffs for the first time in 12 years, a drastic fall from June 2013 when they won its first ever NBA title and sat at the top of the basketball world.
Now Dallas is forced to try and rebuild a contending team basically from scratch—other than Dirk Nowitzki and a few other pieces. The Mavericks have only five players under contract for next season, and much like a season ago, they will have to fill out their roster almost entirely in the offseason.
Dallas will have to do that with a few key areas in mind if they want to have a successful summer.
It's clear that the Mavs have certain areas in which they need to improve if they want to be not only back in the playoffs but pushing towards an NBA finals appearance.
There has been much ado, and deservedly so, about how awful a defensive team the Mavericks were this season.
Dallas was 27th in the NBA in points allowed, and the Mavs inability to get consistent stops was a major reason why it was unable to make the playoffs.
However, a part of the reason why the Mavericks were bad defensively was that they did not rebound the ball effectively at all. With a hobbled 35-year-old Dirk Nowitzki, an undersized Elton Brand and poor rebounders in Chris Kaman and Brandan Wright splitting time at the power forward and center positions, it's not hard to see why the Mavericks were a bad rebounding team.
In fact, the only stat you need to see that shows the ineptitude of the Dallas bigs is that the team's leading rebounder didn't even play in the paint. That was Shawn Marion who started at small forward and averaged 7.8 rebounds per game.
To top that off Dallas was 26th in offensive rebounds and 27th in offensive rebounds allowed, showing that not only did they fail to create more opportunities for themselves but they also let their opponents routinely get second- and third-shot opportunities.
In free agency and/or the draft, the Mavericks simply have to find big men who are willing to bang in the paint and secure rebounds. Without that, it will be extremely difficult for them to improve defensively.
Point Guard Play
After losing J.J. Barea two years ago, and Jason Kidd last offseason, the Mavericks went into the 2012-13 season going in a new direction at the 1 spot. Dallas brought in former New Orleans Hornets and Indiana Pacers point guard Darren Collison to take over the point guard role and hopefully stick as the starter for the next several years.
However, Collison underperformed in his first season as a Maverick.
Despite getting an opportunity to start and play significant minutes, Collison's numbers were very pedestrian and only on par with what he had averaged in the past in a less significant role. Collison also fell in and out of favor with Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle, as he struggled at times to limit his turnovers and play well defensively.
The other issue was that there was simply no one behind Collison that was good enough to push him.
Dominique Jones and Rodrigue Beaubois were busts, while Derek Fisher—who played in only nine games before Dallas released him—and Mike James were far too past their primes to play a significant role.
There is nearly a dozen above-average point guards in the Western Conference, and Dallas has to be better in that area if they want to be competitive.
Dallas has to look into manageable free-agent options at the point. Jarrett Jack, Jose Calderon or even Brandon Jennings may be attractive free agents or perhaps the Mavs take a long look at Trey Burke or Dennis Schroeder in this month's NBA draft.
Collison could still be serviceable as a backup, but if the Mavericks choose not to bring him back, they also need to be sure to address the backup point guard spot in case of poor play or an injury.
As an organization it is time for the Dallas Mavericks to move towards the future. It's time for the team to recognize that they need find the next player who will become an all-time great Dallas Maverick.
The organization attempted to bring a player like that in last year by courting Deron Williams, but its efforts fell short. This offseason, the front office is setting its sites on Chris Paul and Dwight Howard.
Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson simply must do everything within their power to bring a star player to Dallas. The way the team is built right now, it would take the perfect complement of new players for the Mavericks to be competitive without adding another superstar.
Even if the Mavericks can't land Paul or Howard, there are lots of free agents available who are of all-star quality.
While Dirk Nowitzki is no doubt still an elite NBA player, age and injuries have taken away from the Dirk we have been used to seeing over the last 13 years.
Dirk needs to take a step back in the offense next year and play off a new leading scorer, whomever that may be.
Another big-time offensive weapon will allow Nowitzki to avoid constant double-teams. Getting such a franchise talent will not only make the team better but extend Dirk's career.
When it became clear that O.J. Mayo was not going to be the Mavericks' long-term number one offensive option, the team already knew it would need to find someone else in the offseason.
Now is the time for the franchise to put all of their possible resources into signing that kind of player.