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What to make of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s first real minutes with the Mavs

He logged almost 21 minutes against the Timberwolves Monday night.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist hasn’t been with the Dallas Mavericks long, but he finally lifted a burden Monday night. With 6:55 remaining in the fourth quarter, in what would be a blowout 139-123 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kidd-Gilchrist scored his first points as a member of the team. He finished the evening with two points on 1-2 shooting and pulled down six rebounds.

Getting his first bucket is a notable, albeit small accomplishment. What was significant about Monday night’s game was how much time Kidd-Gilchrist spent on the floor. He logged almost 21 minutes of action. In his previous two appearances with Dallas, he saw almost nine minutes of total playing time.

It’s clear that Kidd-Gilchrist is still getting a crash course in the Mavericks’ system. He’s the newest member of the team, after all. As Head Coach Rick Carlisle noted after the game, they want to get him to a point where he can play to his strengths. What those strengths are is another question.

“He’s a great defensive player. He helps us a lot,” Luka Doncic said of MKG. “He can play the small game. He can play the five and the four. He brings the energy.”

He’s predominantly played power forward so far, but he did see some time at center—less than a minute—when he was on the floor with J.J. Barea, Delon Wright, Courtney Lee, and Justin Jackson last night. He has also spent some time at small forward.

At 6-foot-6, 232 points, Kidd-Gilchrist seemingly fits the mold of a potentially versatile perimeter player. However, it’s far too early to declare him something akin to a 3-and-D player like teammate Dorian Finney-Smith. Especially since he has yet to attempt a three-point shot with the Mavericks.

That’s what makes last night’s game somewhat concerning. It’s apparent that he’s still working his way back into game shape, but only getting up just two shots in over 20 minutes of action in a blowout doesn’t instill confidence in his ability to contribute to the offense going forward. Boban Marjanovic, for example, came out firing when he entered the game late in the fourth.

Of course, it’s still early. No one knows how MKG will fit in or if he’ll see significant minutes. So forget those piddly two points on two attempts. Last night was his first real taste of extended game action with the Mavericks. Don’t leap to judge him based on it. Right now, he’s still trying to learn and absorb as much as he can.

“I’ll tell you what, he’s been great in terms of doing everything, absolutely everything that we’re asking him to do,” Carlisle said. “He’s asking a lot of questions. It’s clear that he is really a terrific competitor. Again, I see him getting better as time goes along.”