Coming off of a championship, things did not exactly go as planned for the Dallas Mavericks in the 2012 season.
The Mavs struggled to repeat their performance from the previous season and stumbled to a seventh-place finish in the West and a first-round sweep at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
This year however, Dallas fans will have a new-found confidence as the Mavs bring in a plethora of new talent to join key returners.
With all of the new additions and subtractions from last year's team, few know exactly what to expect from the Mavs this season.
However, here are 10 realistic expectations the team can have going into next year.
As usual, the Western Conference will be extremely deep with talented teams next year.
However, Dallas should have the talent and coaching to put them in the top five in the regular season when it is all said and done.
Los Angeles and Oklahoma City are on a level that no other team in the West can compete with talent wise, but after them it is wide open.
The Spurs will assuredly be players once again, but their core group just got another year older in the offseason.
The Clippers, Grizzlies, Nuggets and even teams like the T-Wolves and the Jazz will also be in the playoff hunt, but there is no reason that Dallas can't finish in the top five with the talent they have.
With Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion returning for another year—and being joined by a talented group of additions that include Chris Kaman, O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison and Elton Brand—the Mavericks have what they need to make an impact in the West next year.
Dirk Nowitzki has been a staple of consistency during his time with the Dallas Mavericks.
During his career, Nowitzki has made 11 All-Star teams and has been selected to an All-NBA team 12 times.
Nowitzki managed to do both despite a down year in 2011-2012; expect next season to be no different.
Although Nowitzki will have plenty of offensive options around him, when it comes to clutch shooting in the fourth quarter, there is still only one player that the ball will be going to.
Dirk has not averaged less than 21 points a game since 2000, and his numbers should continue to be among the best in the league.
The Mavericks rookie trio of Jared Cunningham, Jae Crowder and Bernard James may not be on the radar of many experts, but they all have the ability to make positive contributions to the Mavericks next season.
Cunningham will be in a crowded backcourt, but if he can stand out enough to earn minutes, his athleticism and scoring ability should translate well to the NBA level.
Jae Crowder is a bit undersized at 6'6'', but he is as hard a worker as anyone and should fit in defensively. The Mavs don't have another solid backup small forward on the roster, so Crowder will have his chance to earn minutes.
Bernard James, on the other hand, may struggle to get playing time behind Elton Brand, Brandan Wright, Chris Kaman and of course, Dirk in the frontcourt. But still, having James on the roster will help the Mavs defensively when he plays, and he also brings high character and great leadership to the Mavericks' roster.
While he still has a long way to go, Rodrigue Beaubois has the talent to be a successful point guard at the NBA level.
At times over his three years with the Mavericks, Beaubois has broken out and shined on the big stage. However, he has been inconsistent, and injuries and lack of playing time have been issues throughout his time with Dallas.
With Jason Kidd and Jason Terry gone, many thought this would be Beaubois' year to finally break out. However, Dallas then acquired Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo, drafted Jared Cunningham and re-signed Delonte West in the offseason.
Dominque Jones and Vince Carter are also returning, so with all of those guards on the roster, someone will simply have to go since there are not enough minutes to go around.
Beaubois seems like a logical choice considering the Mavs still may be able to find a team out there who is willing to overpay for him.
He deserves a chance to play somewhere, but it just doesn't seem as though Dallas will be the place for him to do it next season.
As I have written before, I believe the additions of Elton Brand and Chris Kaman to the Mavericks' roster will significantly improve their frontcourt for next year.
Dirk Nowitzki has never played with a set of veteran big men who have the experience and success that Brand and Kaman have had, and although both of them may be on the wrong end of their NBA careers, they still have plenty left in the tank to help Dallas.
Kaman has shown the ability in his career to be a go-to scorer in the paint when needed, as well as a reliable rebounder and defender. Kaman may already be one of the most talented centers Dirk has ever played with, and the two have chemistry after playing several years together on the German National Team.
Brand was once an All-Star caliber player, and although he no longer a player who will demand a ton of attention when he gets the ball, he can still put up solid numbers and help with locker room dynamics. Coming off the bench, there aren't too many big men in the NBA who can do what Brand does when he is in the game.
Together, along with an improving Brandan Wright, Dallas should have plenty of help for Dirk Nowitzki in the post next year on both ends of the ball.
Perhaps the Mavericks' most significant acquisition in the offseason was inking former Grizzlies shooting guard O.J. Mayo to a multi-year deal.
In his first four seasons in the league, Mayo has averaged 15.2 PPG on 43 percent shooting, which are very solid numbers for a young 2 guard.
Mayo averaged just 11.3 and 12.6 points for the Grizzlies the last two years, but that was because he was coming off the bench and playing only 26 minutes a game.
In his first two years as a starter, Mayo averaged a combined 18 points. Logic says that Mayo will be the clear starter at the 2 for Dallas, and there will be plenty of shots for him to take.
Mayo will be the second option on offense after Dirk Nowitzki, and he has all the potential to be a great scorer in the league.
Now that he will be getting consistent time and minutes, expect him to revert back to his numbers from when he was a starter and average in 18-20 points per game.
Assuming the Mavs' starting five is Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman, that will be a solid player at every position giving the Mavs a chance to compete.
However, what may really make the Mavericks stand out next year is their bench.
In the frontcourt, I already touched on Elton Brand and how he can contribute in a sixth man role. Brandan Wright is also developing nicely for Dallas, and at age 24 there is still time for him to break out.
The rookie combination of Jae Crowder and Bernard James will get enough playing time to show their worth and could end up being steals in the draft.
However, where the Mavs really excel is in their backcourt depth.
Joining the Collison/Mayo combo are Delonte West, Roddy Beaubois (although as I stated I believe he will be traded), Jared Cunningham, Dahanty Jones, Vince Carter and Dominique Jones.
While none are standouts, all of those players have the potential to be excellent contributors, and Rick Carlisle will have plenty of options when guys like Dirk need a rest.
For example, if they need scoring, we'll see Carter, and if he wants defense from the 2 position, Dahanty Jones may see the floor.
However, the key will be West, who was brilliant for Dallas last year but got lost in the shuffle with how poorly the Mavericks played.
If West can continue to stand out in the Mavericks' second unit, they could have one of the deepest benches in the NBA.
During his prime, Vince Carter was one of the most dynamic and prolific scorers in the NBA.
In 2012 though, Carter's age really began to show as his production stalled to the worst of his career, barely averaging over 10 points per game.
As I mentioned, the Mavericks' backcourt will be crowded next season, which does not bode well for Carter's chances at securing significant consistent playing time.
Also, at age 35, one has to wonder how much Carter really has left in the tank. His points average has gone down each of the last six seasons.
Although he is under contract for two more years in Dallas, I don't see him lasting through those two seasons, as he will likely grow frustrated if the Mavericks aren't giving him the minutes he wants.
Dallas will have to make a determination if an aging Vince Carter deserves playing time over young developing players like Jared Cunningham and Dominique Jones, and if the answer is no, Carter will likely have the worst statistical season of his career.
What Darren Collison really needed was a change of scenery, and that's what he will get next year in Dallas.
Collison fell out of favor in Indiana over the course of last season, and was losing out to George Hill for playing time. He also didn't ever seem to fit in with Frank Vogel and his system.
In Dallas however, he should be the clear No. 1 point guard, and he will have his best opportunity yet, to show off his skills.
Collison's career high in points over his first three seasons was 13.2 in 2010-11, and his career high in assists was 5.7 in his rookie season with the New Orleans Hornets.
With plenty of weapons around him, especially the pick-and-roll with Dirk Nowitzki, Collison's numbers should go up next year.
He certainly won't feel safe about his job with Delonte West and others right behind him in the pecking order, but Collison was brought to Dallas because Mark Cuban believes he can break out and become one of the league's best point guards.
While he still has a ways to go to get to that level, expect him to improve his game in his first season in Dallas.
As much as the fan in me wants to say that the Mavericks can win a championship again next season, a more realistic expectation is for them to focus on trying to put together a series win next year and advance to the Western Conference Semifinals.
Getting to the conference finals means getting past either the Lakers or Thunder, and barring major injuries, I can't see any team in the West doing that, including the Mavericks.
However, if they can achieve a series win next year, it would have to be considered a success since many fans were unsure if the Mavs would even field a competitive team at one point this offseason.
With Dirk still playing at a high level, it is tough to knock out the Mavs in a seven-game series. I believe they are on par with the next group of teams in the West after the Thunder and Lakers, so making the Western Conference final four is entirely possible.
One distinct advantage Dallas has come playoff time, if they are fortunate enough to get there, is Rick Carlisle.
Carlisle is a championship coach who knows how to get the best out of his players and how to manage a game correctly down the stretch. There is really no coach in the West outside of Gregg Poppovich and George Karl who is more trusted in the postseason than Rick Carlisle.