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Kyle Collinsworth earned minutes with steady play and flashy dimes

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Big Russia showed off his dragon energy during his rookie season.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Looking Back

Kyle Collinsworth’s journey to the NBA is like that of many journeymen: full of starts and stops. After going undrafted in 2016, Collinsworth found himself both in Las Vegas for Summer League and on a preseason roster with the Dallas Mavericks, eventually being waived in late October before the start of the regular season. Shortly thereafter, he was playing with the Texas Legends, where he spent the last two seasons. He got the call-up to the NBA last December.

Collinsworth appeared in 32 games with the Mavericks, mostly in a reserve role—though he did have two starts. For a team that played with few, if any, players who could handle the ball and create from the wing, Collinsworth filled a valuable role for the Mavs. He played point guard in college and, at 6-foot-6, fit right in along the perimeter in multiple positions.

While he didn’t see any time at point with Dallas, playing mostly shooting guard and small forward, his ability to handle the ball and connect with teammates earned him a rotation spot as late January rolled around. From January 22 until season’s end, he averaged 16.5 minutes per game, appearing in 27 games.

Even though he was seeing playing time, Collinsworth never stuffed the stat sheet consistently. On the season, he averaged 3.2 points on 38.4 percent shooting, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.8 assists. While he looked good on the court in terms of offensive movement, he didn’t look for his shot often, which is reflected in his 3.1 field goal attempts per game. His true shooting percentage, .433, is also among the lowest on the team.

So, he isn’t a volume scorer. That’s OK. He contributes in other ways. His average of 1.8 assists is deceiving as Collinsworth has a knack for distributing and finding his teammates. Five times this season he recorded four or more assists in a game. He dished eight, a career-high, against the Phoenix Suns in the last game of the season.

He isn’t just hitting people with blasé dimes either, he’s putting some flare on them like they work at Chotchkie’s. Here are a couple of times he finds Doug McDermott cutting baseline:

It kind of resembles the backdoor play that J.J. Barea and Devin Harris used to run.

And here he is with an insane behind-the-back bounce pass to an open Yogi Ferrell in corner for three.

While the pass above will get all the love—and it deserves some love—it needs to be noted that Collinsworth grabbed that rebound while being boxed out by Clint Capela. That’s not easy. While his rebounding ability is often overlooked, Collinsworth can straight clean the glass at times. He had a season-high 11 in the same game against Phoenix that he had his assist high. He also recorded five or more rebounds in a fourth of the games he appeared in.

Beyond what shows up in the box score, Collinsworth earned his minutes because he didn’t make mistakes. On defense, he was rarely out of position and kept his man in front of him. His defensive box plus/minus rating of 2.2 is the fourth highest on the team. On offense—every Mavericks player suffered in advanced offensive metrics—Collinsworth carved out a niche with a high IQ and the ability to play within himself while setting up his teammates.

TL;DR: Collinsworth is a heady player at both ends who proved he deserves a spot on a NBA roster.

Contract Status

In December of 2017, when he was called up from the G League, Collinsworth signed a two-way contract with Dallas. It would be the first of many over the next couple of months. The Mavs ended Collinsworth’s two-way contract in January before signing him to two 10-day contracts and assigning him to the Legends. They eventually waived him again before the end of his second 10-day. Then, on February 8, he signed a three-year deal with the Mavericks.

Looking Forward

This is where it gets difficult. A lot of Collinsworth’s future depends on what the Mavericks do this summer. That starts with the draft. If Dallas selects a center in the first round, then it shouldn’t have a great impact on Collinsworth’s potential minutes next season. If, however, the Mavs land a ball-handling wing, like say Luka Doncic, then finding minutes might be tough for the second year guard.

Then there’s the question of Seth Curry. It was assumed that he would facilitate a lot of the offense as a playmaking off-guard; instead, Curry sat out the entire season with a stress reaction in his lower left leg. Curry is a free agent this summer. If the Mavs re-sign him and he returns to full health, his scoring prowess will factor heavily into him logging plenty of minutes. However, that’s all contingent on if he stays in Dallas (I don’t think he will, by the way).

Unfortunately for Collinsworth, it appears that he isn’t in control of his fate despite what he says on Twitter. What he does have going for him is a contract and a good work ethic. Even though he appeared in Summer League two years ago, has two seasons in the G League under his belt, and played in 32 NBA games this season, it wouldn’t hurt for the team to send him out to Vegas again. He can spend the time building chemistry with his other young teammates and work on improving his shooting percentage. All reps are good reps, after all.

Even if the Mavs draft a wing and retain a (now healthy) Curry, there’s still a role for Collinsworth in Dallas. He’s can play three positions and has proven that he can work both on and off the ball. And defensively, he’s not a revolving door. That matters. All of this will play into whatever minutes he sees next season, which may involve a number of trips between Frisco and Dallas.

It’s not out of the question to think that Collinsworth will improve. He works hard and it has gotten him this far. It’s just a matter of how much he improves over the summer. He’ll at least get a chance (hopefully) to show that he has in the coming season. And if he hasn’t, there’s definitely a future waiting for him as the next great celebrity athlete chef.