Dionte Christmas is the newest Phoenix Sun after the Suns announced the signing today. The Suns got an extended look at the talented scorer this year at the Las Vegas Summer League and he apparently impressed Ryan McDonough and Jeff Hornacek enough to earn him a contract.

McDonough sung the Temple product's praises in the press release announcing the signing:

"We’re excited to add Dionte to our roster," said Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough. "He was a key contributor for our Las Vegas Summer League team and his scoring ability, leadership and toughness will help us this season."

Here are his numbers and my analysis of his performance in Vegas:

10.1 46.3 32.1 75.0 2.7 2.0 1.0 20.9 +3

Dionte Christmas is a Summer League vet who just finished up his fourth appearance in Las Vegas/Orlando. He's been right on the cusp of making it in the NBA the last couple years since going undrafted after a standout career at Temple. He's a versatile offensive player who knows how to get buckets, and he showed that with the Suns this year averaging double-figures. He played both on and off the ball, getting to the basket, knocking down perimeter shots and even making some nice passes from time to time.

However, Christmas also showed the flaws in his game that have kept him off the NBA court. Spotty shot-selection, defensive lapses and average athleticism were all evident in his performance.

However, Christmas cannot relax just yet. He is now the 17th player under contract for the Suns and faces an uphill roster to stick around for the season. Most teams offer unguaranteed contracts to players like Christmas in order to have plenty of bodies for training camp and the preseason. However, Christmas' contract is partially guaranteed which means he could very well make this roster.

Christmas is pretty familiar with being in this position as he has been signed by teams multiple times but was cut each time before he had a chance to play in a game. Most recently, he was one of the Boston Celtics' final cuts before the season started a year ago.

Christmas does bring shooting and a knack for scoring, two things this Suns roster is a bit short on.

Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Archie Goodwin, Kendall Marshall, Shannon Brown and Gerald Green all have guaranteed contracts in the backcourt. Christmas will compete for a spot with Malcolm Lee and Ish Smith.

This could also mean the Suns are looking to unload some of their players (perhaps Kendall Marshall?) before the season starts. If that's the case, then Christmas' case for making the regular season roster becomes a bit stronger.

So is Christmas' singing just to bring another body in for camp? Or could it be foreshadowing of further moves soon to come? We'll have to wait and see.

More from Bright Side Of The Sun:

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...

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Goran and Zoran another brother tandem?

The Phoenix Suns sure do like the idea of brother tandems. Across multiple front offices, the Phoenix Suns franchise seems to gravitate toward having one or both of a brother tandem on the team.

GM Jerry Colangelo

  • Tom and Dick van Arsdale
  • Wesley Person (brother Chuck Person)

GM Steve Kerr

GM Lance Blanks

GM Ryan McDonough

With Zoran Dragic playing so well for Slovenia and an unrestricted free agent in the NBA (undrafted, signed with Houston last year but didn't make team), is it possible that the Suns would sign Zoran to a non-guaranteed training camp deal?

In Slovenia's first win of the second round yesterday, over Italy, Zoran had 15 points and 11 rebounds, while brother Goran had 22 points and 6 assists. That pair won the game, just as they had helped Slovenia advance from the first round.

GM Ryan McDonough and coach Jeff Hornacek spent the past week watching/scouting players in Eurobasket 2013. The move would be a feel-good move to get Goran in the right frame of mind during a sure-to-be losing season. But the competition for minutes will be stiff, and Zoran simply isn't as talented as Archie Goodwin, Shannon Brown, Marcus Morris or P.J. Tucker, let alone Eric Bledsoe.

Goran to the rescue

The Phoenix Suns won't be a great shooting team in 2013-14 - which might make life difficult on the court. But coach Jeff Hornacek, who wants the team to exceed 103 points per game this season, sees a potential solution right here on the roster.

"Goran is a good shooter when he primarily thinks about scoring," Hornacek said to Slovenian media. "He is slightly worse in situations when he first looks for an assist and then suddenly the space frees up for him to shoot.

"I'll try to instill him a mentality of a shooter, one who is more aggressive searching space to score. In NBA the situation will be slightly different than here, that's why we'll need him to shoot more."

Hornacek was an undersized two-guard who grew from a second-round pick into an All-Star in the NBA as a combo guard who could get you 20 points and 5 assists a game through intelligent play and a remastered shooting stroke. It's apparent he sees a lot of similarities in Dragic to himself and former running-mate Kevin Johnson.

Slovenia upsets Italy

Bright Side contributor Pece gave us some great insight on flight of the Dragic, both Goran and Zoran, as they fought to best a talented Italian team that had gone 5-0 in Round 1.

Everyone is healthy

The Suns top three centers - starter Marcin Gortat, Alex Len and Channing Frye - have been rehabbing all summer.

Gortat was cleared to resume play a couple of months ago, and just capped off an otherwise unimpressive Eurobasket 2013 with a solid game: 19 points, 12 rebounds. He is healthy and will get three more weeks of rest before the 6-month grind begins.

Rookie center Alex Len had a pair of ankle surgeries to repair stress fractures, but he was cleared just this week to resume all activities.


Of course, this is just via text/twitter and we don't know who gave him the go-ahead for sure (and I doubt the official go-ahead is given via text anyway), but this fits the timeline that McDonough gave last month. And, the tweet was RTd by the Suns player development coach, Irving Roland. Len has been jogging for weeks now, but it appears he's cleared for full basketball activities now. Let's hope he stays healthy.

Channing Frye told Bright Side FIRST that he was cleared by doctors to resume all basketball activities. Now, he just waits for the Suns to concur. Ryan McDonough was in Slovenia all last week, so maybe that announcement will be coming in the next few days.

Media Day: Monday, September 30

With any luck, I will get my first "hard" media credential to Suns games for the 2013-14 season in the coming days, replete with lamination, a head shot and everything. When it comes to guaranteed seats on "press row", space is limited. Team employees (like @Espo and @TheMattPetersen), radio (like @Craig620), TV and traveling scouts get first dibs. Local-based national media and beat writers (like @PaulCoro) get in too. After that, it's a dance to fit in all the websites/bloggers who want to cover games.

Last year, my first year replacing overlord Seth who moved to the big D.C., I went through a probationary period with temporary single-game passes based on seating availability. I ended up making something like 40 of the 44 home games, including preseason. The media relations group just sent out a call to arms for 2013-14 credential requests the other day. Cross your fingers that I don't have to do the "dance" all season again.

The Suns have been excellent to bloggers in recent seasons. I must give a huge shout-out to D.C. Headley, Julie Fie (@suns_jfie), Vince Kozar (@sunsstats), Lon Babby and all the game-ops guys for treating us with such respect. Gone are the days of team coverage only from national media and local beat writers. Unpaid, part-time but somehow overworked and dedicated bloggers are now part of the media fabric. Last year, I counted at least six bloggers (sometimes more) on a game-to-game basis with media credentials. Some with season-long credentials (like Kris Habbas for SB Nation NBA, and Kevin Zimmerman for Valley of the Suns), some with game-to-game passes like me. I hope I'm in the former group this season.

Even though this isn't my real job, it would be a great honor to take that next step in my hobby-job. I work quite hard at my real job (you know, the paying one) but I just love covering the Suns and being able to do it in person over this past year has been a dream come true. I look forward to a long hobby-job down at US Airways Center as the Suns rise back to the top of the heap, this time with me in tow.

Training Camp: Flagstaff, September 30 - October 5

The Suns board buses and head to Flagstaff as soon as the mandatory session with media ends at about noon or 1 on Monday, September 30. They will check in to their dorm rooms and likely have a team dinner to get to know each other.

As always, the NBA "training camp" is really just a get-together for teammates to meet and greet with each other while the coaching staff installs the basics of any new system. Five days is five days, meaning not a lot. The meat of installing any game plan and deciding on rotations is done in preseason games.

The training camp culminates with a public scrimmage (Noon) at the Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff on the NAU campus, the first time since 2004 that the Suns have played basketball in that dome.

With Goran Dragic, Slava Kravtsov and Marcin Gortat over in Europe, and Alex Len recovering from ankle surgeries, the Suns have not had a full compliment of players for voluntary pickup games at any one time.

There have been no leaks of who actually HAS been involved in pickup games over the past few weeks, if any, but the guys who have been in town are the same ones who were here all summer: Markieff and Marcus Morris (who recently spent time in Philly after losing a grandmother), Archie Goodwin, Kendall Marshall, P.J. Tucker. Miles Plumlee moved to town late last month.

None of the rest have made it known they are in town yet. Without an in-town leader who rallies the troops, there really is no reason to cut the summer vacation short before the grind of a long season starts.

Media Day might just be the first time many of these guys even meet.

Preseason: October 7 - 23 (7 games)

Where we will find out about this team is during the preseason games that take place in October. Will they find a way to be high-scoring, or will they just be high-shooting instead?

None of the preseason games are on local TV, but I will be there (hopefully) for the three home games to give you insights into how they are playing.

Opening Night: October 30 - Hosting Portland

The Suns finally start the long-awaited 2013-14 season on the night before Halloween, October 30, at US Airways Center. Despite being a season predicted with a bunch of losses, the Suns will hopefully be entertaining in defeat on most, if not all, nights.

Goran Dragic and the Slovenians aren’t messing around. And with a win against previously undefeated Italy on Thursday to open second-round action at EuroBasket 2013, they proved they’re...

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This summer, the Phoenix Suns did not sign any free agents. Not one. For the first time in, like, forever, an NBA team refused to take the bait of filling a hole with an overpriced, veteran NBA free agent.

Free agency has been the lifeblood of NBA since its inception in the late 80s, especially the Phoenix Suns. In fact, it was the Phoenix Suns who signed the NBA's first ever free agent in the summer of 1988. Tom Chambers, 29 at the time, signed a long-term contract on July 1 to help shape a Suns renaissance that lasted nearly a decade.

But this summer, despite owning the worst roster - top to bottom - in the Western Conference, the Phoenix Suns refused to stem the tide by signing a free agent in their prime who could potentially lead the Suns to the playoffs.

Instead, the Suns sat out the spending frenzy and traded veterans for youth and draft picks. They now will approach training camp with 15 players on guaranteed contracts totaling about $52 million dollars, 10 of whom are on rookie contracts.

I know what you did last summer

The Suns entered the summer with about $7 million in cap space, two first-round picks and nine guaranteed contracts for next season. Of the 9 players already under contract, only three were on cap-friendly rookie deals. The Suns only free agents were minor players - Wesley Johnson, Shannon Brown, Hamed Haddadi, Jermaine O'Neal and Diante Garrett. Everyone else was a veteran on free-agent/market-rate deals.

On the surface, there wasn't much to work with. Their cap space was barely larger than a midlevel deal - the worst contract in basketball, but one dotted all over the Suns veteran roster.

Enter new GM Ryan McDonough

"Walking in there, the main thing I wanted to do is upgrade the talent," said McDonough to the Boston Globe recently. "And do it in a fashion that was sustainable for the long term. I didn't want to try to take any shortcuts or try any quick fixes."

McDonough leaves his first summer having brought in nine new players, exporting seven. In the end, 10 of 15 roster spots for 2013-14 are occupied up by cap-friendly rookie deals with the promise of three more coming next summer.

All that maneuvering leaves the Suns in the same spot they started - with just under $7 million in cap space - but with a much younger roster.

Next summer is different

On the surface, the Suns are set up quite nicely for the 2014 off season. The Suns will enter next summer with

Next off season, the Suns have committed guaranteed money to only three veterans (Goran Dragic, Channing Frye, Gerald Green), totaling $17.8 million. Every other contract is a rookie-slotted contract. Alex Len and Archie Goodwin are guaranteed $4.8 million total, while 9 other players are on either team options (4), qualifying offers (4) or non-guaranteed money (1).

Assuming the Suns keep the four kids on their cap-friendly team options - Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Kendall Marshall and Miles Plumlee - around another year (I know, a big leap) and draft three more first-rounders next summer, they project to have about $22-24 million in cap room.

But some big names are free agents this time. LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony could all unrestricted. DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors and Greg Monroe could all be restricted. Every one would get a max deal in this NBA.

From the Suns perspective, Marcin Gortat, Eric Bledsoe (restricted), Vyacheslav Kravtsov (restricted), Shannon Brown, Malcolm Lee and P.J. Tucker all become free agents. Gortat, Brown, Lee and Tucker will be unrestricted, meaning the Suns don't have the right to keep them just by matching someone else's offer.

How to spend $22-24 million?

One option is to re-sign Eric Bledsoe and Marcin Gortat to market-rate free agent deals.

Bledsoe will be a restricted free agent, meaning the Suns can simply let the market dictate his price and match whatever offer he gets. According to Amin Elhassan, formerly as Asst Director of Basketball Ops for the Suns, Bledsoe is worth roughly $8 million a year right now. If he plays very well next season, that number could rise to as much as $13 million per year.

Gortat will be a 30-year old veteran center who is still in his prime as a player, and likely still better than Alex Len, Miles Plumlee and Kravtsov put together. If the Suns want to make the playoffs in 2014-15, they will need a veteran center who is healthy and productive enough to play 82 games at 30+ minutes per game. Per Elhassan, Gortat should command about $8.3 million per year as an unrestricted free agent.

Amin Elhassan  ranks Gortat and Bledsoe as the 17th and 19th best free agents available next summer. The players ahead of Gortat are largely restricted free agents from the 2010 draft (meaning, won't be available just for money) or over-the-hill, overpaid stars. Oh, and LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony too.

Elhassan, on Gortat at 17: Stuck in Dwight Howard's shadow to start his career in Orlando, Gortat was a player we targeted in 2010 when I was a member of the Suns' front office. We knew he was a tremendous rebounder, something we desperately needed at the time, and felt he was underused on the offensive end. Since coming to the Suns, Gortat has continued to clean the glass and shown that he's a good finisher with great timing in pick-and-roll situations with either hand. Additionally, he has exhibited better-than-expected touch from about 15 feet. On the flip side, he's not a creative scorer in the post and lacks the ability to carve out space or improve post position. He's also an average defensive player.

Gortat has, at times, an overinflated sense of who he is as a player, but he's still a very solid option as a starting center, especially if paired with an elite power forward. Plus, he's probably been one of the most appropriately salaried players in the league. A three-year, $25 million deal (AAV: $8.3 million) would continue to give him raises over his past salary while maintaining affordability.

Elhassan, on Bledsoe at 19: Bledsoe can look at his time in Los Angeles two ways -- either he was held back by lack of playing time behind Chris Paul or he was saved from overexposure. Either way, we'll find out whether he is indeed the star talent many have speculated he is (including LeBron James, who is represented by the same agent) this season, as Bledsoe will get a ton of minutes playing for the rebuilding Suns. He's an elite athlete at the point guard position, and an explosive scorer out of pick-and-rolls, but he still needs to show the ability to run a team offense. Defensively, he has all the tools to be a terrific on-ball defender but needs to bring more consistency, particularly in weakside rotations.

Phoenix has until Oct. 31 to extend Bledsoe's contract, and it's actually in both parties' best interests to do just that: The catch is they'll each have different valuations. Based on comparable point guard deals signed this offseason (Brandon Jennings' three years, $24 million and Jeff Teague's four years, $32 million), an appropriate valuation would be four years, $32 million (AAV: $8 million).

Elhassan projects those two to make $16.3 million between them. If Bledsoe plays well, his number will rise. Signing those two guys alone might eat up most of the Suns money, leaving only the dreaded midlevel equivalent for a new player.

Of course, I don't expect this exact scenario to happen. The Suns will make more trades between now and then, shifting the landscape even more.

Yet, it's interesting to note that just KEEPING THE TEAM TOGETHER would take almost the entire salary cap to do.

For his part, McDonough has more tricks up his sleeve than simply re-signing the guys he already has.

"One of the exciting parts about the job," he said to the Globe. "With the draft-pick situation, with the salary-cap situation and the market, being an attractive destination, I can see a pretty clear path to get the team to the level that fans are used to in a couple of years, without having to try to rebuild forever."

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