It would be tempting to say Dionte Christmas‘ breakout summer league paid off, but in fact the exact opposite is true. Christmas, who was the Celtics’ best all-around player in Orlando and Las Vegas, reportedly turned down more money from overseas to agree to a partially guaranteed deal with the Celtics.
The deal does not mean the one-time undrafted free agent out of Temple is a lock to make the Celtics’ roster. At best, he is slated to be fifth in the backcourt rotation behind Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Jason Terry and Courtney Lee. Yet for the first time since being a late-camp cut by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2009, Christmas has a realistic shot of playing in the NBA.
With that, we tracked down someone who knows Christmas and his game very well to give us a breakdown of how the young, 6-foot-5 shooting guard could help the Celtics. The following comes courtesy of John Di Carlo, editor of OwlScoop, the Temple site in the Rivals.com and Yahoo! Sports Network:
Simply put, Dionte Christmas can shoot the hell out of the ball. That will be his role in the NBA one day, whether it’s with the Boston Celtics or another team in the league. He shot 45 percent from beyond the arc in summer league play for the Celtics, 47.9 percent overall and averaged 14.2 points per game.
At Temple, Christmas became one of just four players in the program’s history to eclipse the 2,000-point mark for his career and set a single-season record with 107 threes and an Owls career record for treys with 317, and that basically came in three seasons because he played sparingly as a freshman. In retrospect, he should have been a late first-round or second-round pick but instead went undrafted in 2009.
Why is he getting his shot now and why will he be a good fit for the Celtics? Christmas has always been a dead-eye shooter coming off screens, but he’s also gotten better with creating his own shot, getting out on the break to the right spots on the floor and pulling up in transition to hit a three or a midrange jumper. He’s stronger physically, his footwork has improved, and he’s a better defender now than he was in college. Temple coach Fran Dunphy has done well with developing his players -– Celtics fans can look at former Owls forward and 76ers 2011 second-round pick Lavoy Allen as an example for the defensive work he did on Kevin Garnett –- and Christmas is smart, coachable and hungry for an opportunity. He might be leaving money on the table in Europe, where he’s played since 2009, but he’s determined to play in the NBA and will do anything Doc Rivers asks of him.
Yes, Boston just added Courtney Lee, but it could very much use a wing defender and sharp perimeter shooter off the bench, and Christmas helps fill both voids.
There it is. Summer league invitees who receive invitations to training camp typically are little more than roster filler, but it sounds like Christmas could end up contributing to the Celtics, even in a very limited capacity.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@Dchristmas22