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What will the Mavericks do at the trade deadline? They haven't decided.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

With the NBA trade deadline less than two weeks away (Feb 21st), the Mavs have some decisions to make. And while Mavs HQ no doubt has some ideas for the basic parameters of deals that would interest, the fact of the matter is, I doubt very much they've made many calls.

That's because the Mavericks have not yet decided whether they are buyers or sellers.

Yes, they're 21-28, 5.5 games behind a Houston team that is 7 of its last 10, to say nothing of the Lakers who are also heating up. But only a pretty foolish commentator imagines the Mavs are REALLY a 21-28 team. Even if, with a healthy Dirk, they're still not a tittle threat that doesn't overly matter to Mavs management.

Believe me when I say that if the Mavericks CAN make the playoffs, the Mavs front office wants them to. There are all kinds of reasons for this, starting with the competitive nature of everyone involved, continuing through their lack of faith in the draft, and concluding with their desire to see what they've got and to remain competitive enough to interest free agents.

And as of today, at least, the Mavericks can still make the playoffs. It is tough, and Mavs management knows it's tough--they have to first erase the deficit between themselves and .500, grab a tidy 6 or 7 game winning streak, THEN outpace at least two of Golden State, Utah, Houston, LA and Portland. In a single game microcosm, the Mavs are down 5 with a minute or so to go, and the other teams really only have to hit their free throws.

Bu, as in that hypothetical game, if they do, and somebody hits a three...

Since the All-Star break is also between now and the 21st, the Mavericks only have 4 games to play. One of these is on the 20th, and while deadline deals are all the rage, in all probability Maverick FO opinion about the team's direction will be cinched before that, possibly in the next three games.

If the Mavericks beat the Warriors, Hawks and Kings, they'll be 24-28, 5 for their last 6, with recent wins over two of the teams they'll be jostling with for the last playoff spots.

If they only beat the Hawks and the Kings, they'll be 23-29, and Golden State will have beaten them three times this season. It'll be a long haul, and it will seem like they can't compete with a team that's 6th in the West.

If they lose more than one, they will be 7 or 8 games under .500 heading into the All-Star break and the season, for all intents and purposes, will be over.

I don't know what it will mean if the Mavericks are buyers. It's hard to tell who they think are pieces for the future and who aren't---are they determined to re-sign Mayo and Collison? Do they hope to keep Marion with a cheap contract in two years? What about Vince and Brand, next year? But something like Josh Smith---the Mavericks wouldn't trade for Josh Smith this year if they didn't feel like they're going to make the playoffs, and same goes for somebody like Al Jefferson.

We know by now that the Mavericks have a higher opinion of what free agent dollars can do than most teams. At the same time, we know they have no intention of ever going back to the lottery if they don't have to. It's a tough mix to hit correctly, but there they are.They were unlikely to commit a lot of dollars to someone to win now if it's not Dwight Howard in the first place--it's impossible they'll do so unless it's a sweetheart deal, or they think they can actually make some noise this year.

In the next three games, we will know whether the Mavericks will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. Let the wild rumpus commence.