The roller-coaster ride that was the Dallas Mavericks' season has come to an end.
After their victory over the New Orleans Hornets, the Mavs close out the year right where they started it, with a .500 record.
41-41 was not good enough to keep the Mavericks' 12-year playoff streak going, but it did continue their streak of not having a losing record, something the team has avoided every year since 2000.
Although the Mavs closed out the season on a high note, playing their best basketball of the season over the last month, it was still a disappointing year for a team that had expectations of being in the postseason once the year began.
One thing we know for sure is that the Mavericks will not sit idly by in the offseason and that Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson will do everything in their power to try and improve the team.
With that being said, there are obvious issues with the team that must be addressed if the Mavs want to be contenders next season.
When the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA championship in 2011, it was a complete team effort.
Sure, they wouldn't have won it without their star, Dirk Nowitzki, but the reason why the Mavs were able to win was because they were such a great team from top to bottom.
Part of being a great team is familiarity, chemistry and continuity, things that the 2011 squad all excelled in. The crux of that team had been together through thick and thin in trying to win a championship. Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Dirk and Shawn Marion were all long-standing Mavs. Sure there were new players brought in like Tyson Chandler, but they were there to fill one or two missing pieces of the puzzle, not to put it together from scratch.
This year, however, Dallas really struggled in that area, and it's not hard to see why. Last offseason, Dallas brought in eight new players, and although all of them had talent, it was hard for all the new players to mesh with one another, taking all the way until mid-March before they finally really started playing together as a team.
Plus, with all of the one-year contracts the team signed, the players had to look out for themselves and had more personal motivations over team motivations. This year, it is essential that the Mavericks sign more long-term contracts so the players they bring in can build around each other for the next several years.
Despite much negative attention, Darren Collison didn't have a bad season for the Mavericks.
In fact, his scoring, shooting percentage, assist and rebound numbers are all essentially exactly what you would expect based on his career averages.
The problem, however, is that the Mavericks weren't looking for Darren Collison to fall into his career averages. They were looking for him to take the next step and show that he is capable of being the team's lead guard for years to come.
Instead, Collison was very inconsistent and never took the steps forward that fans were wishing he would.
Behind him there was a revolving door of failure, as Delonte West was gone before the season even started, Dominique Jones was cut, Rodrigue Beaubois had his worst season yet, Derek Fisher came and went, and Mike James was largely ineffective.
Only James of that bunch could be seen as any sort of success, but at his age, his skills can only do a team so much.
If Collison and/or James returns next year, he must be pushed with new talent at the point guard spot. There are affordable players out, such as Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack, who would be capable of starting or at the very least being key bench players.
If the Dallas Mavericks had a core group made up of Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Chris Kaman, Vince Carter and Elton Brand, that squad would have won an NBA championship and won 65 games in 2004.
Unfortunately, it is not 2004, and the Mavericks relied heavily on many former All-Stars to live up to their past performances despite their age making that nearly impossible.
Nowitzki is still one of the best players in the game, Carter and Marion are effective role players, and Kaman and Brand can still mix it up down low; however, all of them combined have lost significant ability from their primes.
The Mavericks were the fifth-oldest team in the NBA this past season, and having a team made up of players in the mid-30s doesn't exactly help much to build toward the future.
The Mavs have to get younger and start bringing in pieces that can play in Dallas for the long haul, especially in their frontcourt if they want to bring back the consistency that made them a top team over the last decade.
At first glance, it doesn't seem as though the Dallas Mavericks are all that bad in terms of rebounding the basketball.
After all, they grab 42 boards a game, which is good enough for a tie for 14th in the NBA, putting them right in the middle of the pack in that category.
However, when you look closer to not only the stats but the games themselves, you can see that Dallas' inability to grab rebounds consistently may have cost them several wins this season.
The Mavericks finished the season 28th out of 30 NBA teams in rebounding margin with a woeful minus-3.4 difference per game. Many times during the course of games Dallas gave up second and third chances, and you simply cannot afford to do that against NBA teams.
When Shawn Marion, a 6'7'' small forward, is your team's leading rebounder, you know the roster just doesn't have enough bigs on it who are capable of eating glass at a high level.
What's puzzling is that they seemed to have the size to do it, but the players just didn't rebound well enough either offensively or defensively to be a winning team.
Dirk Nowitzki, a 7-footer, was plagued by knee problems and averaged just 6.8 rebounds per game. Chris Kaman, a 7-footer, grabbed a career-worst 5.6. Elton Brand, who has been a great rebounder in the past, managed only 6.0 per game. Brandan Wright was great offensively, but just couldn't rebound well enough on a consistent basis and managed only 4.1 RPG.
Dallas has to address its rebounding problems for the 2013-14 season, or it will once again miss out on several could-be wins because of its lack of intensity on the boards.
Simply put, the Dallas Mavericks were not good enough defensively this season to be a playoff team.
For the first time since the 2003-04 season, Dallas finished in the bottom half of the league in opponent points per game, giving up 101.9 PPG (27th out of 30 NBA teams).
Rick Carlisle has made it a point to change the culture in Dallas and make them a defense-first team, but this year's roster got away from that notion. The Mavs were very effective scoring the ball this season, but their D was just too atrocious to allow them to be an elite team.
On the perimeter, O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison were often topped by their opponent's backcourt. In the paint, Dallas had no great defensive players to protect the basket.
There was no real focus by the team to get better defensively as the year went on either. Dallas was bad on that end in the beginning of the season, and it was just as bad in the end.
Signing lower-level defense-first players may not be the sexy thing to do this offseason, but in order for this team to get back in the championship hunt, that is something that it absolutely must address in either free agency, the draft or by trades.