At some point, rebuilding Mavs need to move Andrew Bogut

DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks have about a month to attempt to salvage their season, big man Andrew Bogut proclaimed over the weekend.

Unfortunately, it appears that Bogut will miss a significant chunk, if not all, of that time.

The initial prognosis is that Bogut hyperextended his left knee, which was injured late in the first quarter of Monday's 109-101 loss to the Charlotte Hornets. The Mavs are hoping an MRI on Tuesday will confirm news that they consider relatively good, in the sense that it wouldn't be a season-ending injury.

"We don't think it's terribly serious," coach Rick Carlisle said. "At this point, it appears we dodged a bullet."

Perhaps it'd be better to say the Mavs got grazed by a bullet. The typical timetable for recovery from a hyperextended knee ranges from two to six weeks, so Bogut might beat Dirk Nowitzki (Achilles tendon) or J.J. Barea (calf) back to the court.

"It seems like we get one guy back, and another guy goes down," said point guard Deron Williams, who missed several games with a calf injury. "It's definitely been tough. ... But you can't control certain things. We've just got to keep on trucking."

The good news: Bogut should be back in plenty of time for the Mavs to showcase the big man before the Feb. 23 trade deadline.

The bad news, at least for those who want the Mavs to be competitive this season: The injury probably increases the odds that Bogut will be dealt.

Owner Mark Cuban has made it clear that the Mavs won't soon "pull the plug" on the season. He has never been in a position to be on the seller side of the trade market, and it certainly isn't something he wants to put much thought into before the calendar flips to 2017.

However, it appears inevitable that it will be in the Mavs' best interest to make a future-minded deal or two. Their best chips are Bogut and Williams, a pair of veterans who have contracts that expire at the end of the season and are capable of helping contenders.

Team sources back up Cuban's public stance that the Mavs have no immediate intention of shopping their veterans who might have value on the trade market. Yet with the NBA's worst record, at 4-16, they aren't ruling out that possibility in a month or two.

The Mavs' front office does not want to send the message that it is giving up on the season. Cuban, in particular, refuses to "tank." Forget that four-letter word, but at some point, it'd be foolish of the front office to not recognize that this is a rebuilding season and take a long-term view on roster building.

Bogut is a proven, championship-caliber, complementary player, which makes him a heckuva trade chip whose talents would be wasted on a bad team. He is an elite interior defender, as evidenced by a defensive rating (95.3) that is the best among the NBA's starting centers this season. He is an outstanding rebounder, as he ranks 10th in the league with 10.7 per game and fourth in rebounds per 48 minutes (19.7). Bogut isn't much of a scorer, but he can help make a good offense hum with his screening and passing skills.

All of those skills will be missed by the Mavs while Bogut recovers, and that increases the already strong odds that it will be painfully obvious in a month or so that the playoffs are a pipe dream in Dallas. It's no coincidence that the Mavs got outrebounded by 20 and allowed Charlotte to shoot 50.4 percent from the floor on Monday.

Several league sources believe the Mavs could get a first-round pick from a playoff team -- plus whatever player(s) necessary to make the salaries work -- in return for a healthy Bogut. Snicker all you want about the Mavs' previous draft failures, but plenty of value can be found late in the first round. Take, for example, All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler, who went 30th in the 2011 draft -- four spots after the Mavs dumped their pick for Rudy Fernandez, who had decided by that point that he'd had enough of the NBA.

There has been speculation about the Boston Celtics being a potential fit for Bogut, which makes sense on a lot of levels. One problem: It's safe to assume the Celtics won't part with their 2017 pick, which they have the right to swap with the Nets for what should be a high lottery pick.

But that's just one potential suitor. There will be others if the Mavs are willing to move Bogut, and that is why a lot of folks in front offices around the league will be keeping an eye out for news about the big man's MRI on Tuesday. Although Cuban isn't ready to declare Dallas a seller, he recently noted that picks might not be his asking price if he does shop veterans.

"I'm just saying I'd rather get better than go backwards," Cuban said. "I'd rather be opportunistic. Because what's changed is, cap isn't going up $15-20 million like it was before. So teams may come to the realization and they might be willing to give off a really, really good player, if not a perennial All-Star, to get off the money. So I'd rather take that money and go that direction and get good fast."

The Mavs are far from good now, even with Bogut playing well. But he could still play a key role in the franchise's rebuilding process. First, however, the Mavs' front office must acknowledge that the process has already begun.