The Phoenix Suns added to a bloated backcourt on Friday by agreeing to a contract with guard Dionte Christmas. Paul Coro reports that Christmas will have a small guaranteed portion on the first year of a multi-year deal.
“We’re excited to add Dionte to our roster,” said general manager Ryan McDonough in a press statement. “He was a key contributor for our Las Vegas Summer League team and his scoring ability, leadership and toughness will help us this season.”
Christmas averaged 10.1 points and two assists per game with the summer Suns this year. He has played in Israel, Italy, Russia, the Czech Republic, Greece and Turkey since leaving Temple University in 2009. In college, Christmas was consistently one of the NCAA’s most potent scorers. Since leaving college, he has struggled to stick on an NBA roster but likely caught the eye of McDonough while playing for the Boston Celtics summer league team and signing a similar, partially-guaranteed deal to join the team for last year’s training camp.
Phoenix’s roster now stands at 17 players heading into camp, and the Suns are especially deep at the guard positions. NBA teams can only carry 15 players into the regular season, meaning that Christmas will likely be competing with Ish Smith and Malcolm Lee for the finals roster spots.
Here’s a story about Christmas’ road to make an NBA roster from NBA writer Paul Flannery.
This is another in a long series of small moves that smart rebuilding teams make that have become a staple of the Suns’ new regime.
They are essentially taking a gamble that Christmas will turn into a productive player by offering “a small guarantee” in the first year on a multi-year deal that could put him under team control at very favorable prices through the length of the contract. That’s similar to the deal the Suns signed last year with P.J. Tucker, which is now looking like a steal for their potential starting small forward, and like the bargain-hunting Houston Rockets signed with Patrick Beverley.
It’s the kind of chance the Suns can afford to take with their $6.5 million-plus worth of cap space since there is little opportunity cost to providing small guarantees for the potential return of a productive player on a multi-year minimum contract. If he doesn’t work out, the Suns will be in the same position they are now minus however many thousand dollars they are guaranteeing.
Once again, the Suns found another way to take advantage of their cap room.
– Michael Schwartz