Bembry has been Hawks’ best player at summer league

Credit: Benjamin Hager

Credit: Benjamin Hager

DeAndre’ Bembry had an idea he could play in the NBA.

While still in college, he played summer pickup games with the likes of Kyrie Irving and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, N.J. If he could hold his own there, he thought, then a career at the next level was not out of reach.

After three standout seasons at St. Joseph, Bembry declared early for the NBA draft. The Hawks selected him in the first round with the No. 21 pick last month, and the 6-foot-6 forward has started to show that he belongs in the league.

“I played against a lot of pros before,” Bembry said. “I’m not uncomfortable.”

Bembry has been the Hawks’ best player so far in the Las Vegas Summer League. He started the team’s three games and totaled 30 points on 10-of-23 shooting, including 3-of-7 from 3-point range. He also has 14 rebounds, 14 assists, four steals and one block.

The Hawks continue summer-league play this week with the double-elimination portion of the tournament. They will know their seed and next opponent after the conclusion of opening-round games Tuesday.

The Hawks believe Bembry fits the bill as a long, athletic wing player who can play multiple positions. Bembry said he believes he can play point guard, shooting guard or small forward. Some around the league think he eventually could play point guard because of his passing ability. Others believe he will fit as a wing, such as Kent Bazemore, in the Hawks’ system.

“At the end of the day, he’s just a really good basketball player,” Hawks assistant and summer league coach Taylor Jenkins said. “We put him in a lot of different situations. The beauty of our offense is guys are very interchangeable. To get a guy who may be pegged as a 2 or 3, but can play some point or be in pick-and-roll situations or decision-making situations, it’s going to be exciting.”

Bembry had a pre-draft workout with the Hawks. He took the opportunity to look at the roster and system to see what kind of fit he would be in Atlanta.

“I looked at every team that was talking to me to see where they would want me and how I would fit,” Bembry said. “I feel like I’m a little different. Kent Bazemore, I think you can compare me to him. A little bit bigger guard, can slash to the rim. I feel like I can fit very well with the Hawks — get out and run, make good decisions, play team basketball. That’s probably the biggest reason they like me.”

Hawks general manager Wes Wilcox said Bembry was ranked significantly higher on the team’s draft board than where they eventually selected him. He said the Hawks began scouting Bembry during his freshman season at St. Joseph’s and picked up last season when he was the Atlantic 10 player of the year.

“His versatility, unselfishness, athleticism really stood out as very good fits for the way we play in our organization,” Wilcox said.

Bembry averaged 17.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.4 steals in 37.3 minutes in his final collegiate season.

As for the next level, Bembry also counts versatility as his biggest asset.

“I’m trying to bring my versatility at both ends of the floor, whether it’s me playing defense on a star player or me guarding a point guard, a 2-guard or a 3,” Bembry said. “Defensively, bringing my aggressiveness. Offensively, whether it’s running the point, the 2 or the 3, whether it’s me scoring at times, whether it’s me getting my teammates open jump shots, I think my versatility on both ends of the court can definitely help.”