In advance of the 2018-2019 NBA season, the Peachtree Hoops crew will preview each player on the current roster. The seventh edition centers on third-year wing DeAndre’ Bembry.
DeAndre’ Bembry’s NBA career hasn’t gone according to plan so far.
Selected with the No. 21 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft, there was a lot of intrigue surrounding the former St. Joe’s alum — his ability to slash to the rim as well as his ability to make plays for others being two primary draws to Bembry coming out of college.
In his rookie season, Bembry and his fellow 2016 rookie Taurean Prince split time in the rotation but it was ultimately Prince who saw more court time than Bembry in their rookie season — Prince playing 59 games compared to Bembry’s 38 games.
Heading into the 2017-18 season, a greater opportunity awaited Bembry, with the Hawks’ new front office — led by new General Manager Travis Schlenk — taking the team in a different direction: younger, faster.
A greater role was something that Bembry knew was possible amidst the departure of some of the veteran players in the summer of 2017.
“...( I was) definitely was sad to see them (the veterans) leave but I was happy because it opens a lot more time for me and also some of the younger guys to get out there and play,” said Bembry on media day ahead of the 2017-18 season.
And it was all looking pretty good for Bembry, who enjoyed a solid preseason, but his progress was short-lived as he picked up a wrist injury during the Hawks’ opening game against the Dallas Mavericks, sidelining him for 4-6 weeks.
This injusy coming not long after a tricep injury that Bembry suffered prior to training camp.
Sadly for Bembry, it seemed to be one injury after another, picking up various injuries such as a groin injury while on duty for the Hawks’ G League affiliate Erie Bayhawks and an abdominal strain almost immediately after the All-Star break ended, returning to the lineup just before the season ended.
In the end, Bembry played just 28 games for the season...
It also didn’t help that when Bembry did play, for the most part, he was played poorly, enduring a difficult spell in November and December before being assigned to the G League (where he picked up his groin injury) — though, did fare slightly better near the end of the season when he returned from that abdominal strain.
Add to that a mid-season arrest for reckless driving and, all in all, it was a season where Bembry went backwards when he should’ve been going forwards and he was left to rue his misfortune when it came to injuries.
“A very frustrating year for myself dealing with so many injuries — I’ve never dealt with injuries before in my career,” said Bembry during the Hawks’ exit interviews.
But even after the Hawks’ season had ended, Bembry wasn’t freed from his injury bug, diagnosed with a wrist fracture on the same wrist he injured on opening night, and was ruled out for the next 4-6 weeks. This timeline would’ve lined him up to return for Summer League but this never happened and Bembry was subsequently ruled out of Summer League.
Heading into his third season now, it’s make or break for Bembry.
His fourth-year option is in serious danger of not being picked up, and Bembry needs to show vast improvements in a number of areas both in camp, preseason and the beginning of the regular season if he wants to secure that option and the opportunity to show what steps he could possibly take with an additional year with the Hawks.
But in order to showcase himself on the court he has to be just that — on the court.
Somehow, someway, Bembry has to find a way to stay on the court, there’s no other way around it. If he can’t stay healthy, stay on the court, it’s hard to envision the Hawks looking to retain Bembry long-term. But as long as he can avoid injury between now and late October, Bembry’s option should be picked up.
If he’s able to stay healthy, there’s a number of aspects of his game that Bembry must show improve upon — because even if his fourth-year option is picked up, the end of his fourth-year will be coming shortly after and with it, the possibility of restricted free agency.
Bembry shot 36% from behind the arc last season but you have to take that with a grain of salt — only 28 games played and only 1.2 attempts per game. Those who have watched Bembry know that shooting is definitely not a strength of his and he’ll have to improve his efficiency from behind the arc (or, at the very least, shoot similar percentages on more volume). There are too many shooters on this squad now and Bembry can’t fall behind now.
Bembry also has to improve his efficiency from the free-throw line — a 57% shooter from the charity stripe last season. That’s not going to get it done. Neither is this degree of shooting at the rim, where Bembry was quite ragged last season:
In fact, (and this shouldn’t really come as a surprise) almost every aspect of Bembry’s shooting needs improving — Bembry registered a very poor 47.7% true shooting percentage last season. That has to improve this season. The Hawks now have more players who can not only shoot but also handle the ball. If Bembry can’t shoot, what is he offering that other players who can handle and shoot can’t offer?
Defensively, it’s possible Bembry has an edge over some of his competitors but will that be enough for coach Pierce, who is a defensive specialist after all?
We know Bembry is capable of some solid defense but that alone will not be enough to show his long-term worth. That also has to improve, but not as much — Bembry’s defense is definitely ahead of his offense at this stage.
Not only will Bembry have to improve his shooting efficiency but he’ll also have to improve his playmaking.
Again, in a limited sample, Bembry averaged 1.9 assists per game but more worryingly he averaged an assist/turnover ratio of just 1.04 — basically a turnover for every assist, which is not ideal if one of the ‘strengths’ about your game is facilitation/ball-handling.
Bembry’s place in the rotation isn’t guaranteed, even if he is healthy. But given the position the Hawks are in, he’ll see his chances regardless and he has to take advantage of them when they come — something Bembry didn’t do last season.
If he doesn’t improve his game across the board and doesn’t seize his opportunities, Bembry could be looking for a new NBA home very soon...
2018-19 is an absolutely massive season for DeAndre’ Bembry... is he up to the task?