In the doldrums of summer, the Peachtree Hoops staff came together for a 10-part roundtable series, answering a series of prompts with an eye toward the upcoming season for the Atlanta Hawks.
Part two focuses on the immediate future of fourth-year wing DeAndre’ Bembry.
Jeff Siegel: Unfortunately, it seems his role may be on the outside looking in most nights, particularly if the Hawks fully commit to Evan Turner as backup point guard. Playing the two of them together is going to be untenable offensively, particularly if Jabari Parker is on the floor as well in reserve units. Surrounding Turner with capable shooters like Kevin Huerter and Allen Crabbe makes more sense than Bembry. There is a rotation in which Bembry plays minutes next to Trae Young with the starters, particularly at the end of the first and third quarters if Lloyd Pierce wants to get Huerter in with Turner to start the second and fourth, but those 10 or 12 minutes a game might be the ceiling on the minutes Bembry consistently plays this season
Graham Chapple: In my opinion, Bembry should the primary back-up wing -- the first wing off of the bench, the one who comes in should someone be in foul trouble. I’m sure there’ll be a few who think rookie Cam Reddish should be that man -- and that may, though, unlikely, happen at some point -- but it shouldn’t be the case this soon. This is a big year for Bembry, who will be a restricted free agent next summer should the Hawks elect not to sign him to an extension. He has shown himself capable during Lloyd Pierce’s first season as head coach and Pierce’s defensive trust in him was evident -- Pierce might be in need of defensive bodies and Bembry is a proven one for Pierce.
Rashad Milligan: I’m going to roll with Greg on this one (see below) and say put him in the backcourt backup role with Evan Turner. Bembry’s very versatile one through three, but I really like him at the backup two behind Kevin Huerter.
Zach Hood: I will disagree with Greg and Rashad, I do not think playing Bembry and Turner together is ideal. The lack of shooting in that backcourt could create immense spacing issues even with three shooters on the floor. It seems minutes may be difficult to come by for Bembry initially, I’d probably have him slated as the third point guard (behind Turner), as well as additional rotation wing to throw out there in the right match-up. I don’t view this season as a big “let’s see what we have in Bembry” season for the Hawks. I think his role in the NBA is somewhat defined at this point; handle the ball and move without the ball on offense, play hard, aggressive defense and provide energy off of the bench when his number is called. I think that’s how Bembry helps the Hawks in 2019-20, and I think that’s how he stays in the NBA going forward.
Toby Adeyemi: Bembry is an interesting player for me. He plays harder than anybody on the court and has games from time to time where he shows he could be a significant player for the Hawks. He’s shown the ability to be a possible Draymond Green type of player for the Hawks (obviously at a different position), but can he be that? I don’t think so, and he would need to up his production big-time including his 1.9 assist average. He’ll be in a crowded wing group with the young rookies and Vince Carter returning, but I feel unless he can become a lot more impactful in a hurry, give those minutes to the rookies.
Sam Meredith: Bembry is one of those players that I think championship teams need. He can play three positions and has shown in his career that he can play lock down defense against some of the best guards in the game. Bembry also is really good at forcing his way into the lane and has a high enough IQ to make simple skip passes as to not clog up the offense when he’s on the floor. Bembry isn’t a starter, but I liken him to the Andre Iguodala role where he can do whatever Lloyd Pierce needs him to do. I would like to see him develop his shooting a bit more.
Matt Harris: I agree most with Glen. I like him best on the wing, but he’s going to have to prove he deserves minutes. He hasn’t been a great shooter thus far in his career and it’s tough for non-shooting wings to play major minutes on a squad like Atlanta that has a young team and a few guys who will need minutes to show what they have (Hunter, Reddish, etc.)
Glen Willis: To start the season, Bembry should be the first wing off of the bench if he’s not part of the starting unit. By mid-December, the Hawks should be able to assess how much of a step forward he has taken since last season. If he’s not playing well enough to play ahead of most of all the wings acquired during the offseason, he’s probably not good enough to project being on the team past this season. If that’s the case, Bembry’s playing time should not be a priority over the second half of the season. If he’s become a more consistent shooter and finisher at the rim, he could be good enough to project being a useful role player on the next Hawks’ playoff team.
Andrew Kelly: Bembry is in a difficult position. Following the departure of Kent Bazemore, Bembry enters the season as perhaps the team’s best perimeter defender. He made a tremendous improvement in his third season, playing in every game and posting career highs in true shooting percentage and box plus/minus. However, the addition of Evan Turner throws his role into question, as they have overlapping weaknesses behind the arc. In order to maximize his playing time, Bembry will need to carve out a role as a defensive specialist. On nights when the Hawks face a dynamic lead guard, i.e. James Harden, Bembry could see increased minutes as Atlanta’s best guard stopper. Furthermore, Bembry appeared to earn Lloyd Pierce’s trust last season. Often, a coach will not so easily relinquish a trusted player, even if the broader situation isn’t ideal.
Dylan Hughes: To start the year, it’s probably best for Bembry to ride the pine while Allen Crabbe and Cam Reddish fill in the reserve wing roles behind Kevin Huerter and De’Andre Hunter. Bembry is a player every team in the league needs — a low-maintenance, high-effort player that everyone is happy to see succeed. The reality of these types of players, though, is that the smart teams use them sparingly while the dumb teams overplay them to the point where it hurts the team. Yes — Bembry makes plays on defense and throws down some fun dunks. But last season, his shooting splits left something to be desired at .446/.289/.640. In certain situations, you definitely want Bembry’s high-intensity on the floor over Crabbe or Reddish. But on a consistent basis, it should be those two on the floor over Bembry.
Greg Willis: Playing off the bench in the backcourt with Evan Turner makes the most sense. This should be a make or break year for Bembry as he approaches restricted free agency next summer. Playing him behind players on expiring contracts limits his opportunity to prove his value going forward. If he finds himself deep on the bench as the season progresses, it is an indication the Hawks’ front office has already made the decision that looms at the end of the season.
Brad Rowland: This one is tricky. Clearly, Kevin Huerter and De’Andre Hunter are going to be ahead of Bembry in the pecking order, with Huerter already a better player and Hunter as a significantly higher priority. Then, you pit Bembry against Allen Crabbe and Cam Reddish (with the potential for others like Chandler Parsons, Vince Carter or Evan Turner) for playing time as a backup wing. Bembry is probably a better player right now than Reddish, but Reddish is a lottery pick with significantly higher upside, and the Hawks are probably going to want to evaluate him sooner rather than later. As for Crabbe, one could argue that Bembry may be comparable (or better) as a player, but Atlanta might need Crabbe’s shooting when deploying Turner as the backup point guard. The Hawks might run a deep rotation as they did for parts of last year, but Bembry could be in a fringe role if things don’t break right.