The Atlanta Hawks first three preseason games have been rather painful to watch. Sure, I’m ecstatic to see the likes of Trae Young, John Collins, and the boys back on the court in live-action, but the start to their preseason has been full of mistakes and growing pains by their young core. However, that is to be expected. What I’m looking for early on is the positives, and DeAndre’ Bembry has stuck out like a sore thumb for all the right reasons.
Bembry’s first two seasons in the NBA were wasted because of nagging injuries. One after another, they prevented him from ever finding a rhythm. He played in 64 games combined, averaging less than 15 minutes and five points per contest. Then, last year happened.
His first season under Lloyd Pierce was the first one he was healthy for the entire campaign. Bembry played in all 82 games, averaging close to 24 minutes per. He’s best known for his defensive ability – something the Hawks need desperately in their backcourt with Trae Young on the floor – but his offense also took giant steps forward as the season progressed.
Bembry is an explosive finisher around the basket, possesses a quality handle with above-average vision. He limits turnovers and does many of the little things that don’t show up on the box score. In the second half of last season, Bembry averaged 9.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game while shooting 48.9% from the field in just over 21 minutes per. His plus-minus went from a -7.7 in the first half of the year to a +0.4 in the second, and as a result, he’s come out this preseason with much more confidence.
The former St Joe’s star led the Hawks in scoring in their first preseason game with 16 points on 6-11 from the field, adding three rebounds and a couple of assists as well. He had a tough time tallying points in his second outing of the year against the Magic. However, Bembry still did many of the little things that make him unique, racking up seven rebounds, four assists, and three steals in just 24 minutes. He followed that up with 13 points last night on 5-7 shooting with five rebounds and three assists in another loss to the Heat.
You could make the argument that Bembry has been the best player for the Hawks during the first three games of the preseason. We know what he can do defensively, but if his offense continues to take strides forward, he could become a precious piece to a Hawks team looking for supplementary players.
An area to watch for him this season will be his shooting. Dating back to college, the three-point shot has never been a strong suit for him, and he only made them at a 28.9% clip last season on 2.1 attempts per game. Improved shooting is critical to him taking the next step at this level. Bembry has proven he belongs in the NBA; now, let’s see if he can become an invaluable commodity to a team that plans on contending in the future.