It is go time if the Dallas Mavericks want to keep their streak of 12 consecutive playoff appearances alive this season.
Dallas has had to deal with injuries for a good majority of the season including one to Dirk Nowitzki, plus it has lost a plethora of close games, including a disastrous 1-8 record in overtime games, which suggests the team is better than the record they have.
Still, the experiment of bringing several new players on short-term contracts has been a failure this season thus far, and if the Mavericks are going to make any sort of impact this season, they will need to seriously adjust the roster before the trade deadline.
Dallas is going to be a serious player for the big free agents this offseason, due to the amount of cap space it will have in the offseason.
Only four players currently on the roster have guaranteed contracts for the Mavs next season, so they will have a lot of flexibility on who they do and don't want to bring back for next year.
However, of the four players who have guaranteed contracts for next season, there is one that sticks out: Shawn Marion.
Marion is owed over $9 million next season if he stays in a Maverick uniform. Since Dallas will be looking to sign multiple star or even superstar players in the offseason and already has $22 million plus committed to Dirk Nowitzki, it would be wise of the Mavs to try and trade away Marion to a contender this season.
Marion has likely run his course in Dallas. Although he is still an effective player and can absolutely contribute to a contending team, Dallas is too far out of it this year for him to make a serious difference.
If the Mavs can get someone to overpay for him, they could get some nice pieces for the rest of this year and beyond, or at the very least have another $9 million to play with in the offseason.
One area in which Dallas was expected to excel in this season was its depth. Unfortunately, that has just not been the case as several players have just not worked out for the Mavs this year.
Dallas in the backcourt has been searching for a quality backup point guard all season long and has settled on 38-year-old Mike James to fill that role.
Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones and Jared Cunningham haven't panned out the way Dallas had expected them to this year, and Delonte West was cut before the season even began for attitude issues.
In the frontcourt, rookie Jae Crowder is still trying to figure out the NBA game, while Brandan Wright and Elton Brand have been disappointments.
Only Vince Carter has really been able to be effective consistently coming off the bench for the Mavericks this season.
If Dallas is going to make any sort of push for the playoffs, it will need to shore up its depth and add some experienced bench players who can shore up its second unit.
Of all 30 NBA squads, no team gets out-rebounded more than the Dallas Mavericks. Dallas ranks dead last in the NBA in rebounding margin at minus-3.9 per game.
The Mavs' leading rebounder by nearly two full RPG is their small forward Shawn Marion, while their second-leading rebounder is a bench player in Elton Brand.
Despite being seven-footers, Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman have never been great rebounders, but this year they are experiencing career lows in that category.
Kaman is averaging just 6.2 rebounds per game despite playing nearly 24 minutes per game, his lowest total since his rookie season in '03-'04.
Nowitzki (who in his defense is still recovering from knee surgery) is managing just a measly 5.5 RPG, also his lowest total since his rookie season of '98-'99.
If the Mavs continue to get consistently out-rebounded night in and night out, it will make it extremely difficult for them to make up ground in the standings. Dallas would do well to try and trade for a big man that it can start at the center spot, who focuses entirely on being a glass eater and owning the paint.
Despite their reputation as an offense-first team, the Mavericks have not finished a season in the bottom half of the NBA in opponent points per game since the 2003-2004 season.
This year, the Mavs however rank 29th out of 30 NBA teams giving up 103.0 PPG to their opponents.
Part of the reason is because the Mavs have a very fast-paced offense that plays a lot in the open court and they do rank 10th in the NBA in scoring.
However, it is highly unlikely that if the Mavs don't improve their defensive effort, they will not be able to make up ground in the stacked Western Conference this season.
Rick Carlisle has brought a defensive perspective to Dallas since he has taken over as head coach; however, this season the Mavericks have fallen back to one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA.
Dallas would benefit from bringing on board at least one or two defensive stoppers that it could insert into the rotation that would help them keep its opponents under the 100-point mark for the rest of the season.
The Mavericks will be in a precarious position this offseason. While they will certainly have the cap space to sign top-notch free agent. However, in a class that potentially could include players such as Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, the question that has to be asked among top-tier free agents is if the Mavericks are really an attractive destination to play for right now.
Sure, the fanbase is great, and Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle are among the best in the NBA at what they do, and money won't be a problem knowing that Dallas will have only about $24 million locked up for next season if it trades Shawn Marion.
However, the Mavericks don't have much else to sell on other than playing along side 34-year-old Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavs may have a tough time convincing free agents to come on board when there will be plenty of other teams who are in a better position to win a championship who also come calling.
Because of this, it would benefit the Mavs to go after a top player this season and not have to wait until the offseason to make their move.
Dallas doesn't have great talent, but it has enough pieces in place to make a big move somewhere in the NBA.
It may not be acquiring a superstar like Dwight Howard, however, there are several All-Star caliber players who may be on the open market that Dallas could bring over.
If the Mavericks are able to bring another star on board this year, they become more appealing to other stars in the offseason, and can also focus more on bringing in key role players to complement their multiple All-Stars.