With Dwight Howard choosing to lay roots in more humid climes (possibly joined by Josh Smith), Chris Paul staying in LA and Andre Iguodala gone to Golden State thanks to whatever the hell Utah is doing (I guess you call it "paying a hefty price for tanking") - the Dallas options to make a big splash this summer are running out quickly.
We're at the point where we have two options.
1.) We can put together another team full of solid if unspectacular veterans like Jarrett Jack and Samuel Dalembert, make the playoffs if Dirk Nowitzki is healthy and hope to catch lightning in a bottle twice. This gives Dirk the dignity of a graceful finish to his career without having to tank. But we are highly, highly unlikely to win another championship with that strategy, even with the further improvements we can make next summer. The top six teams in the West (Clippers, Spurs, OKC, Houston, Memphis and Golden State) are stacked and dangerous, and other rising teams like Minnesota (assuming they get healthier) and New Orleans might be there soon. And then you can't rule out the Lakers and Denver either, diminished though they may be. In reality, this will probably be a mix of making the playoffs and being a first round exit, and just missing the playoffs for the rest of Dirk's career.
2.) Roll the dice on the biggest gamble of all: Andrew Bynum. A health and chemistry risk, no doubt, but also if healthy would be the best player Dirk ever played with and the most likely option to put us back into real contention. At worst, we are forced to tank this year because he can't get healthy, and we cut him using Exhibit 3, the clause in the CBA allowing contracts to pre-negotiate team opt-outs due to pre-existing injury risk. This would be similar to how Minnesota got out of Brandon Roy's contract. Having an awful year would not necessary be the end of the world in a year with a stacked draft.
Bynum has a bad reputation. Some of this is due to media perception, and media perception is not always fair. Dwight has been called selfish for a few years now for the indecision he caused in Orlando, even though he opted into a risky year that helped Orlando and in no way helped him. If his back injury was more critical, this selfless decision could have been disastrous. So don't believe everything you hear in the media.
By all accounts, the Philly players wanted Bynum back this year, indicating he's not the awful locker room presence everyone says he is. Also, can you blame Bynum for having a bad locker room relationship with Kobe Bryant, when this has proven to be the experience with Shaq and now Howard as well? Kobe hates all challenges to his reign in LA and sabotages his own teammates who try. Bynum blows off the media, like Popovich, but instead of seeming brusque and aloofly condescending like Popovich, he comes off as a punk, which is why the bad image of him takes hold.
The first criticism of this move is always "Why would Dirk want to play with Bynum, or waste another valuable year by failing?" Well, I'm not sure approach A, clawing our way to a seventh seed, is not also a waste of a valuable year. Also, you know Dirk has to have input in whether he wants to gamble on Bynum or not.
Bynum is sink or swim for the franchise, but we're probably sinking anyway, so I'd rather have at least the possibility of survival. And who knows - if Bynum comes back nicely and Dirk stays healthy, perhaps we can build a real contender next year. It's a long shot, but that's all we have now, and pointing fingers does us little good.