BYU basketball triple-double king Kyle Collinsworth signed a two-year, partially guaranteed contract with the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, putting pen to paper on his first NBA deal. The Salt Lake Tribune was first to report the news.
While this is certainly a positive development for Collinsworth, who went undrafted after a record-breaking career with the Cougars, the nature of his contract means that there’s still much more work to do for him to cement a spot in the world’s top league.
To truly understand what Collinsworth is up against, you need to understand the arcane details of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement and player contract structure. Let me explain.
Most NBA player contracts are “fully guaranteed,” meaning that the team is required by law to pay the player the full value of the entire contract, no matter what happens. If the team decides to waive the player, they still have to pay. If the player gets injured and sits on the bench for the duration of his contract, the team still has to pay. Bottom line: Once you sign on that dotted line, you’re locked into whatever money you agreed to. All of it. No getting out early.
(A caveat to that: Teams will sometimes “buy out” a player’s contract when there’s not a good fit. But this still requires the team to pay the full value of the contract, or negotiate a mutually agreeable lesser portion. But again, the player needs to agree to anything of the sort—and while it’s not super uncommon, it’s also not something that happens frequently.)
This whole system is incredibly advantageous to players, with much of the credit due to their reasonably adept union for negotiating it. For comparison, no NFL player has a fully guaranteed contract.
But Collinsworth’s contract is only “partially guaranteed,” which means that the Mavericks are only required to pay a certain portion of the total value of the contract if they decide to waive him. While we don’t know how much guaranteed cash Collinsworth is set to receive, the structure is similar to the deal that Jimmer Fredette signed last season with the San Antonio Spurs.
Fredette originally signed a $1 million, partially guaranteed contract with the Spurs — the NBA minimum for a player with four years of experience. However, when he failed to impress in training camp, the team was able to cut him and only pay the guaranteed portion of the deal, which amounted to $507,711. He essentially got a cool half-million for a couple weeks of work. Not bad, huh?
Collinsworth’s deal isn’t likely to be quite as rich as Jimmer’s. He’s a rookie, so the total value of his contract (making the very safe assumption that it’s a minimum deal) is likely $543,471. What we don’t know is the portion of that amount that is guaranteed to him. It’s unlikely to be a ton — when it comes to dealing with undrafted free agents who are desperate to get any foot in the door of the league, the teams have all the leverage — but in Collinsworth’s situation, any guaranteed money should be seen as a moral victory.
Undrafted free agents often get invited to teams’ training camps on completely non-guaranteed contracts, which means they can be cut without a second thought. The fact that Collinsworth has extracted some guaranteed cash from Dallas is a sign that the team has at least some level of interest in potentially keeping him around. It’s probably not a huge investment, but it’s an investment nonetheless, and that means something. He’s not just an extra body to help run drills at training camp.
But he also hasn’t “made it” yet. The Mavericks are essentially paying him to not go to someone else’s training camp. And while that’s great (and an opportunity virtually every person on earth would jump at), it doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to be suiting up for Dallas when the games start. He still has to compete for a spot and make the roster. If he fails to impress at training camp, the team won’t hesitate to say “thanks, but no thanks” and send him on his way — the guaranteed portion of such a low-value contract isn’t large enough to provide them with much disincentive to do so.
Long story short, Kyle Collinsworth’s career outlook hasn’t changed all that significantly from a couple days ago. He’s still got to keep working and fight for his spot in the league. It’s going to be a tough battle, and he’s undoubtedly preparing himself for the challenge. But at least now he gets to go to war with a little money in his pocket.