Dionte Christmas Capping Off Impressive Summer
With shooters and floor-spacers always needed in the NBA, Dionte Christmas’ game figures to be an appealing asset.
If that’s not enough by itself, consider Christmas’ body of work over the last few weeks: back-to-back summer league stints, highlighted by instant offense and confidence to match.
The former Temple standout has given the Suns an offensive jolt, something the team has needed when the veterans/regulars take a seat to give the rookies and NBA hopefuls a shot. When the offense stalls, Christmas is usually the guy to kickstart it up again.
“He’s here to score,” said Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek.
Christmas was at it again during the Suns’ 103-98 win over Toronto on Saturday, coming off the bench for 15 points in just 23 minutes of play.
Lethal in catch-and-shoot situations, Christmas’ first points illustrated how much work he puts into refining his skills off the ball. After setting up near the right-side baseline, Christmas stutter-stepped on direction, throwing his defender off balance with the faked cut away from the basket. He then sprinted down the baseline, using two screens before popping out above the 3-point line at the right angle.
The sequence took all of four seconds, but the space created as a result was more than enough to catch, shoot and score his first jump shot of the day.
If the play seems familiar, it’s probably from watching the same players that Christmas himself has emulated.
“It’s from watching other guys,” Christmas said. “I’ve seen how guys like Ray Allen and Reggie Miller, especially, shoot it. Jeff Hornacek [too]. I just watch them, keeping learning, picking up little things from guys that I defend.”
Miller and Allen also would have recognized Christmas’ ability to get the rare fourth point out of a 3-point attempt. Twice on Saturday he curled tightly around screens and, in one motion, rose and hit a shot while getting fouled in the process.
“He’s always been a good scorer,” said Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough. “He was one of the leading scorers in the country as a senior in college (19.5 ppg). He knows how to set up his shot. He knows how to create space. He knows how to get open for shots and he gets it off pretty quickly. He positions himself well off the ball and he’s got his hands and feet ready to shoot.”
Christmas has proven in Las Vegas that he’s far from one-dimensional, helping some of the younger guards bring up the ball and run the offense. In the second game that saw the Suns erase an 18-point halftime deficit, Christmas was one of the more vocally encouraging players as the Suns sought to keep up their collective effort. That, paired with his 16 points and three assists that game, enabled Phoenix to stage a dramatic 91-89 comeback win over Minnesota.
Having staged his skill set both in Las Vegas and at the Orlando Summer League, Christmas is hopeful his summer auditions have, if nothing else, been noticed.
“It’s a grind. Just what I want,” Christmas said. “I wouldn’t ask for anything else. I did pretty well in Orlando. Coming here and playing for Phoenix, Coach Hornacek has given me a great opportunity. He’s playing me great minutes. I’m just trying to showcase my talent, trying to get signed.”