What do Mavs do if Dwight Howard doesn't come to Dallas?

(UPDATE: Howard has eliminated the Mavs from consideration)

What do the Mavericks do in the likely event that Dwight Howard doesn’t pick Dallas?

They’ll turn over every rock in the trade market trying to find a way to land a franchise-caliber player, but that’s pretty tough to do without attractive assets. That was the indirect message from Boston GM Danny Ainge when the Mavs called to send out a feeler on Rajon Rondo.

One thing the Mavs won’t do is tank the season and hope for a high lottery ticket in the loaded 2014 draft.

To the contrary, maybe the Mavs can benefit from talking to tanking teams in the trade market. They might be able to pick up a quality piece or two from a team interested in cutting costs.

They’ll try to piece together a roster good enough to get back into the playoffs. Is that possible? Well, they were in the hunt until the final week of last season despite digging a 10-games-under-.500 hole with Dirk Nowitzki recovering from a knee scope.

The Mavs have glaring holes at center, point guard and center. They’d create a hole at small forward if they deal Shawn Marion to create more space under the salary cap.

As far as free agency goes, their priorities would still be signing a center and point guard.

There are two high-quality starting centers other than Howard who are still on the market: Andrew Bynum and Nikola Pekovic. There are major problems with the pursuit of both of them.

Pekovic is a restricted free agent, and all indications are that the Timberwolves intend to keep him. How much would the Mavs have to offer for Minnesota to decline to match? If the Mavs guess wrong and the Timberwolves match after the three-day waiting period, Dallas is pretty much guaranteed to strike out on free-agent centers.

Bynum is the biggest injury risk on the market, missing all of last season with bad knees and big chunks of five of the previous six years. Bynum, a 19-12-2 guy in 2011-12, still won’t come cheap.

It comes down to managing the risk with the language of the contract. If the Mavs have a team out (perhaps based on games played) after the first year, offering Bynum good money makes a lot of sense.

If the Mavs miss out on Howard, how attractive would they be to Jose Calderon? He just turned down an offer from the Sacramento Kings because he didn’t want to rebuild. Then again, Dirk doesn’t play in Sacramento.

The other point guard candidates – Mo Williams, Jarrett Jack, Monta Ellis – would all be in play.

Another possibility: Making a strong push for small forward Andre Iguodala, who could be considered the best non-superstar available in free agency.

There is a lot of competition for Iguodala, including the possibility of him returning to Denver. How much should the Mavs be willing to pay for an excellent defender, passer and open-court player who isn’t much of a threat to score out of halfcourt sets? Sounds like it’ll take at least $48 million over four years. (UPDATE: Iguodala is off the board. Yahoo! Sports reports that he committed to the Warriors for a four-year, $48 million deal.)

There is no perfect Plan B for the Mavs.

There are dozens of different potential scenarios. None of them would wash away the bitter taste of whiffing on a big fish again.