The Dallas Mavericks' front office has a pair of big-picture options, neither of which is particularly attractive in the immediate future.
They can move forward with the plan that has failed so far. Or they can panic.
They'll keep the bait ready for the big fish. After Deron Williams failed to bite, believing the future was brighter in Brooklyn than Dallas, that means the Mavs will maintain their financial flexibility while poking for bargains in the trade market and prepare to go back in the deep seas next summer.
"Keeping the powder dry is a term that you’re going to hear a lot with a lot of teams in the NBA since the landscape is drastically changing and the future of the league is really changing before our very eyes on a daily basis," Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson told us on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM Monday morning. "Our position is we want to be players when it comes to getting star-quality talent."
This isn't a difficult decision for the Dallas decision-makers, although "Keeping Powder Dry" isn't exactly a slogan fit for a marketing campaign. Mark Cuban and his basketball brain trust made their choice to chase superstars when they didn't offer Tyson Chandler a multi-year deal in December.
Nelson insists the Mavs have no regrets about choosing that path, even after whiffing on Williams and watching the majority of the title team's rotation leave Dallas. He's adamant that it takes superstars – plural – to win championships in this league.
The 2010-11 Mavs, a lone-star bunch featuring Dirk Nowitzki and a since-stripped-down supporting cast, were an exception to that rule. Folks in Dallas will debate for generations whether it was foolish to break up that aging squad instead of trying to conquer the multi-star super teams by keeping it intact.
The minority faction that supports the front office decisions won't have much ammo if all the Mavs just keep swinging and missing through next summer, when Chris Paul is expected to headline the free agency pool. (Of course, Paul and Dwight Howard – whose availability next summer depends on where the Magic deal him – were expected to be part of this year's free agency pool when the Mavs chose a fishing expedition over Chandler and Co.)
However, there's more hope in that happening than the Mavs piecing together a title contender with free agency scraps this summer. Therefore, it'd be a panic move for the Mavs to make multi-year commitments to anyone this summer after failing to hook Williams or Steve Nash.
"Mark has proven over the years that he's more than willing to spend to get a championship here," Nelson said. "It's just that spending smart and spending stupid are two different things."
The smart money says the Mavs' title window with Nowitzki has closed. But it'd be really dumb to make panic moves that forfeit the possibility to prove that theory wrong.