Dirk Nowitzki talks and acts like he's under contract with the Dallas Mavericks, even though he's not.
So while the signing of his fifth and possibly final deal with Dallas is a foregone conclusion early next month, the shape of things around the 36-year-old Nowitzki is the biggest question for the Mavericks starting with the NBA draft Thursday night.
The Mavericks don't figure to alter their roster significantly on draft night because they go in without a first-round pick. Their top choice is at No. 34, followed by their last pick at No. 51.
But Nowitzki isn't certain that owner Mark Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson will sit still until the 7-foot German's new contract gives the Mavericks a better idea what else they can do in free agency.
"I learned with Mark and Donnie that anything's possible," said Nowitzki, who is getting ready for his 17th season, all with the Mavericks. "We pulled deals off over the length of my career that nobody saw coming. Within a couple of hours they made something happen. Anything's possible with those two guys in the summer, draft day or at the deadline."
Five Things to Consider Heading into the Draft for Dallas:
BACKCOURT STABILITY: The Mavericks have it with Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon after ending a three-year run without any long-term deals by signing the pair of guards last summer. Since they drafted another guard in Shane Larkin in the first round last year, the focus would appear to be elsewhere.
10 YEARS AGO: The highest draft pick since Cuban bought the team in 2000 was guard Devin Harris, who was part of a deal as the fifth overall selection in 2004. After a trade and several other stops, Harris returned on a one-year deal last season when a three-year contract was scuttled because of toe surgery. Harris played half the season with no issues and wants to come back, but he wants a longer deal this time.
THE BIG NAMES: Carmelo Anthony apparently has Dallas on a short list of teams he will consider after opting out of his contract in New York. Nowitzki doesn't think Anthony to Dallas is realistic, and LeBron James doesn't figure to be a consideration. So any additions aren't likely to be headline-grabbers, barring a major move on draft night.
THE MATRIX FACTOR: Shawn Marion's contract is up, and he is the closest thing the Mavericks have to a defensive force. They want to re-sign him but aren't sure the market will keep the figure low enough for their liking. If Marion doesn't come back, coach Rick Carlisle's emphasis on defense could be in for a significant challenge.
DRAFT-DAY DEALS: Dallas was trying to clear cap space for a run at Dwight Howard last summer and ended up trading down twice, although Larkin at No. 18 was their highest pick since Harris. The last time the Mavericks didn't have a first-round selection, they ended up without a draft pick after trading second-rounder Solomon Alabi in 2010 for a future choice.