What it will take to keep Brendan Haywood?

When the Dallas Mavericks traded Josh Howard to Washington, a case could be made that center Brendan Haywood and not Caron Butler was the centerpiece of the three players acquired by Dallas.

The Mavs had lost out on Orlando restricted free agent center Marcin Gortat last summer and with Erick Dampier aging -- and possibly not being with the team next seaosn -- Haywood represented a 7-foot shot blocker, rebounder and an offensive presence with soft enough hands to catch-and-finish.

However, the 7-foot, 263-pounder is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Even though Haywood's short time in Dallas came with mixed results for both sides, there appears to be at least some mutual desire for Haywood to re-sign. Dallas needs a center and Haywood wants to play for a contender.

Still, it might be difficult to pull off. Reading the NBA tea leaves, Haywood, who turns 31 in November, most desires two things if he's to return to the Mavs:

1) A defined role. His great start with the team appeared to lock up the starting job. But, after Dampier returned from injury, coach Rick Carlisle, unhappy with Haywood's sometimes lackadaisical defense, went back to Dampier, who relishes his role as the defensive anchor and remains a brick-wall screen-setter. Haywood reclaimed the starting job in Game 5 of the first-round playoff series loss to San Antonio. While Haywood would obviously prefer to start, he'd accept playing significant minutes off the bench -- as he did on multiple occassions last season. But, he wants to know his role up front.

2) Money. Haywood made $6 million last year, slightly more than the mid-level exception. With nine NBA seasons under his belt, Haywood has yet to "cash in," and this summer represents really his last opportunity to do so. Centers are rare so supply and demand drives up the price. The question for the Mavs is how high are they willing to go? Consider that the Mavs used the full mid-level exception (five years, $31 million) two summers ago on center DeSagana Diop, a player with career averages of 2.1 points and 3.8 rebounds. Assume Haywood's starting price will be much higher.

With career averages of 7.7 points and 6.4 rebounds -- numbers he's surpassed in each of the last three seasons -- plus posting more than two blocks a game in the each of the past two seasons, Haywood could be a welcome addition to a club, particularly in the Eastern Conference -- Miami? -- that has to do battle with Dwight Howard.

Just a few months ago, Haywood was thought to be an excellent acquisition, a long-term fix at center who could provide shot blocking, offensive rebounding and at least the threat of more low-post scoring than they were getting out of the position. But, with Haywood eyeing a raise, he might have been nothing more than a short-term rental.