This season was to be DeAndre’ Bembry’s chance to break out after he played just 371 minutes as a rookie. Minutes opened on the wing with the departures of veterans Tim Hardaway, Thabo Sefolosha and Kyle Korver. Bembry was excited by coach Mike Budenholzer’s renewed emphasis on pace-and-space, a development that should have benefited him.
But then Bembry suffered a string of injuries. It started with a triceps issue during training camp, continued with a right wrist fracture on opening night and then Bembry developed groin/abdominal injuries in December and January. Bembry had a good stretch of play over the final 10 days of the season, but even that was sullied by a second fracture to his right wrist that required surgery following the end of the season.
Bembry ended up playing just 455 minutes over 26 games this season. There were some positives for Bembry but the multiple injuries overshadowed them.
Offensively, Bembry’s 3-point shooting improved after he was 1-for-18 from that distance in 2016-17. But that came with the caveat of a small sample of 30 tries with 11 makes (36.7). Bembry attempted 3-pointers on just 23 percent of his 128 overall shot attempts.
Bembry’s poor accuracy on shots at the rim, a so-so free-throw attempt rate and poor free-throw percentage added up to a 47.7 true-shooting percentage. Among the 362 players who played 450 or more minutes this season, only 19 had a worse TS% than Bembry according to Basketball Reference.
Bembry had excellent production as a play-maker: 88th percentile among wings in assist to usage rate ratio, according to Cleaning the Glass. Bembry has very good anticipation and court vision—he can whip no-look passes to ready 3-point shooters. But Bembry had among the worst turnover percentages for NBA wings because of his tendency to dribble out of control into traffic or try risky cross-court passes.
Bembry showed good defensive potential as a rookie and was even better at that end this season. He had excellent production in block percentage (93rd percentile, according to CTG), steals percentage (89th percentile) and deflections (4.2 per 48 minutes). Bembry is long, active and aware on defense and his disruptiveness frequently made it tough on opponents to run offense on the perimeter.
Hawks opponents scored three points per 100 possessions more with Bembry on court vs. off, according to CTG (non-garbage time). But for the 501 possessions Bembry was on the court without Marco Belinelli, Hawks foes scored 106.5 points per 100 possessions compared to the team’s overall defensive rating of 111.1.
Bembry is a tough player who has shown flashes of being a solid NBA player, especially on defense. Offensively, Bembry was at his best when he drove to the basket under control, attracted defensive attention and then whipped crafty passes to teammates. He did that often over the final five games of the season.
But I don’t think Bembry has played enough minutes in a regular role to get a good sense of his NBA potential. That means GM Travis Schlenk won’t have much to go on in terms of live games when he decides whether to pick up Bembry’s 2019-20 contract option for $2.6 million by the October deadline. Bembry figures to have plenty of competition: the Hawks added Antonius Cleveland and Jaylen Morris as developmental wings, and could add more in the draft.
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