DeAndre’ Bembry’s third season in the NBA was his best yet, if for no other reason than he played all 82 games for the first time in his career. After finishing his sophomore season with a total of 64 games played for the club, several of which were garbage time duty during his rookie year, his consistent spot in the Atlanta Hawks’ rotation and consistent health were both massive questions coming into the year that have since been answered with resounding positivity for the soon-to-be 25 year old guard.
A larger role in the overall team didn’t necessarily come with a larger role within the offense itself, as Bembry’s usage and efficiency numbers stayed relatively consistent with prior years, but the ability to post similar numbers over a longer period is a positive step for him. He had the ball in his hands quite a bit and is absolutely a creator; it’s just not entirely clear at this point whether he’s better at creating for his team or his opponent.
For his position, Bembry is a pretty good passer and flashes the ability to be a secondary option or even a backup point guard on certain units, but he turns the ball over an astronomical amount. His 17.4 turnovers per 100 possessions was the 11th-worst mark in the league among 183 qualified players, though he’s certainly not alone on a Hawks team that was horrible at keeping hold of the ball; rookie point guard Trae Young was one spot worse than Bembry on the same list and the team as a whole placed five separate players in the top 52. The best qualified player on the team was John Collins, and he was only just above average.
Creating for himself and his teammates is likely going to be his key to long-term success in the league, as the three-point shot is still very much a work-in-progress for him and doesn’t look to be nearing average any time soon. Unlike a lot of other non-shooters, however, Bembry brings other offensive skills to the table, so he’s not a lost cause on that end of the floor even if the three-point shot never comes around.
Something’s going to have to give – he either needs to develop into a mid-30s three-point shooter whom teams at least have to guard on the perimeter when he doesn’t have the ball or he needs to discontinue being a turnover machine so that he can be a positive as a ball handler. Considering how many of his teammates are high-level shooters, the team can get away with Bembry not being one, but that also means putting the ball in his hands more often to get to the rim and find those shooters when the defense collapses in on him.
He’s already quite good at the first, as head coach Lloyd Pierce banged home throughout the year. Bembry is the one guy on the team who doesn’t need a screen to get to the rim; he can break down his opponent with a combination of a quick first step and enough strength to bully through defenders. In time, the passing should come along; for much of the season, Bembry was an honorary rookie, both in terms of the hazing he received from his veteran teammates and his experience in the league. Most inexperienced ball handlers have issues with turnovers as they catch up to the speed of the NBA game, but they don’t stay that way forever. If he gets the opportunity to be a part of the rotation next year, there’s a significant chance that he’ll be able to cut down on his turnovers and become a more complete offensive player.
Defense is not a problem for Bembry, as he walked into the NBA a hound on that end of the floor capable of defending both guard spots and some of the smaller 3s in the league. Improving significantly on this end likely isn’t in the cards for him, both because he’s already a strong positive defensively and any massive improvement would have to come from a very late growth spur. Nothing’s impossible, but it’s not super likely that Bembry is going to come back from the summer break standing 6’8.
On a team that’s going to feature Young heavily in the future, Bembry is an imperfect backcourt partner, but he does have a key defensive skill; he can guard opposing point guards. While the team mostly threw Young into the fire defensively in the hopes of getting him as much experience as possible, at some point it’s going to become necessary to hide him more often, which is where a player like Bembry comes into play. To effectively hide Young, the club will need guys who can step in and play a lead stopper role, and there’s nobody among the young crop of guys who can do that.
Teammate Kent Bazemore is something of a prototype for Bembry on both ends of the floor, as Bazemore got a late start to his career and was mostly known for his defense and energy before developing into a solid shooter with the Hawks a few years ago. Bembry is from a similar mold, only with more ball skills and a worse jumper, but as long as he improves in one of two main areas offensively and is able to keep up his defensive prowess, he should have a place on the Hawks going into next season and beyond.
Some of his role will come down to those around him; if the team drafts two wings in the top ten and Bazemore and Taurean Prince are still on the team, there’s a chance Bembry’s minutes get squeezed significantly, though he could still function in a utility role as the team’s third point guard and fifth wing as he continues to develop. The best case scenario is that he’s able to up his game enough with another fully healthy summer to convince the coaching staff that he should be in the rotation consistently, but it’s by no means an absolute at this stage.