The 2019-20 NBA season isn’t “over” but, with the coronavirus pandemic placing the season in a suspended mode, there is a distinct chance that the Atlanta Hawks won’t be playing again this season. With that as the backdrop, the Peachtree Hoops crew will look back at the players still on the roster and how they performed in the team’s first 67 games.
The third installment centers on soon-to-be free agent wing DeAndre’ Bembry.
After a successful 2018-19 campaign where he overcame the injury problems that plagued his sophomore season (playing all 82 games in 18-19, having played 26 games in 17-18), DeAndre’ Bembry entered his fourth season having emerged as an important part of Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce’s rotation, with Pierce in particular leaning upon Bembry’s defense throughout the 2018-19 campaign.
With Bembry entering his fourth season — and, of course, a restricted free agency — it was important that he followed his strong 2018-19 season with a strong showing in 2019-20.
Bembry began the season, pretty much, where he left from last season: still a key figure in Pierce’s rotation, playing 26 minutes per game in the first 10 games. His three-point shooting numbers, however made for a bad reading, shooting 11% from three in the first 10 games.
Bembry finally broke out, somewhat, of his three-point slump when he hit 4-of-5 from three-point distance against the Detroit Pistons on Nov. 22.
Well, slump may be the wrong word to use...
Prior to that game, Bembry hadn’t hit more than one three in a game for the season before he hit those four. In fact, Bembry had only made one three-pointer for the entire season prior to that Detroit game, a game where Bembry also scored a season-high 22 points.
For the season, Bembry’s three-point percentage before that Detroit game was a lowly 9% on 0.9 attempts in 14 games (and you thought Cam Reddish’s early-season three-point shooting was bad) but after that Detroit game, it rose to 31%.
Bembry’s three-point shooting has always been a concern and the fact that these struggles had, again, carried into another season is very problematic for his future. In a year where Bembry was is set to be a restricted free agent and the Hawks drafting two wing players in the form of De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, Bembry had to build on from last year. Instead, it was a year of regression.
The fourth-year wing may have been one of the few players for the Hawks who could play defense but that trend wasn’t going to last forever, and eventually players would come who could play defense and add on the offensive end, not to mention his playing time once the rookies — the future — became more acclimated to life in the NBA. Additionally, there comes a point where you need to offer something on offense, and since the Hawks have to hang their hat on offense and shooting to win games — especially in the absence of John Collins — rather than defense, that leaves Bembry in a tough spot.
From December onward, Bembry’s playing time dipped, playing 17 minutes per game from Dec. 1 through Jan. 1, but this wasn’t the the only dip that Bembry suffered. In this time, Bembry averaged just three points per game on 35% shooting from the field and 20% from three.
Bembry, to be blunt, just wasn’t fantastic when he was on the court, and with Reddish’s rookie season steadily improving, and with the Hawks’ ball-handling responsibilities outside of the point guard position shifting away from Bembry each season (it was Kevin Huerter last season, with Huerter continuing into this role this season, in addition to the Hawks trialling Reddish’s abilities), his role continued to decrease.
Having played all 82 games during the 2018-19 season, Bembry would receive his first DNP-CD in over a season. To be fair, he had threatened to do on a few occasions prior, as he fell out of the rotation, but given the blowout nature of games involving the Hawks, Bembry’s ‘streak’ lived on longer than it probably should have as he got to contest in garbage time.
The turn of the new year did not mark a turn on fortunes for Bembry. Rather, things got worse.
While he wasn’t playing very well, Bembry at least had his health, but in 2020, this faded away as well. Bembry would play his last game of the season on Jan. 20 in a loss to the Toronto Raptors. On Jan. 24, the Hawks announced that Bembry had undergone a non-surgical procedure on his right-hand to “to address symptoms of neuritis.”
Bembry ended up missing nearly a month due to that injury and even though he was available to play by mid-February, he simply didn’t feature as the Hawks chose to run with Brandon Goodwin among their wing collection of Huerter, Hunter and Reddish (with the Hawks having traded for point guard Jeff Teague, pushing Goodwin to what was basically a wing rotation member)) — by that stage, there wasn’t a thing that Bembry brought to the table that those players couldn’t bring themselves. Some could shoot, some could play defense and, worryingly for Bembry’s future, some could do both.
Bembry would later struggle with abdominal pain, which resulted in him missing the remainder of February, and when Bembry neared a return in March, the season was suspended before he could do so.
So, while Bembry was available to play in February, his last game ended up being in January.
Sadly for Bembry, as it turned out, the better moments of his season came early in the season. On the Hawks’ only appearance on TNT this season, Bembry produced one of the Hawks’ better dunks as the first quarter drew to a close:
He also contested an interesting game against the Phoenix Suns at home, where he engaged in trash talk with Suns All-Star Devin Booker, before being ejected.
All in all, sadly, it was not a great season for Bembry. A combination of injuries and, well, time, meant that he slid out of the rotation.
For the season, Bembry averaged 5.8 points per game on 45% shooting from the field (on five attempts), 23% from three and 54% from the free throw line.
The question that stands out is: where does Bembry go from here?
He’s an impending restricted free agent, should the Hawks tender a qualifying offer (worth $3,752,339) to him, but it really felt like there was no massive future for him on this team as the season progressed — even when Bembry was available to play but simply did not get the opportunity to do so.
Again, the issue going forward in Atlanta is while Bembry, I believe, is a good NBA defender who can create problems on that end, he is arguably surplus to requirements in Atlanta, with the continued growth of the Hawks’ younger core, such as Reddish and Huerter to name a few. He simply doesn’t have the offensive game to bring forward those other good qualities onto the court and there are others who can do that while bringing the defense too.
Would I be surprised if Bembry returns to Atlanta next season? Perhaps, yes.
Is it possible the Hawks sign Bembry to a short-term deal? Absolutely, and they’ll obviously have the cap space to do it. In addition, it is far from a lock that’ll even be tendered a qualifying offer, considering the relatively lucrative number attached to the former first-round pick. In short, I think we’re (collectively) past the point where Bembry’s name is included as part of what the Hawks are doing going forward.
Bembry is, currently, the longest tenured Hawk at the club right now, but his position is certainly under threat after a difficult season — some that was in his control, and some that was not...