I always make a conscious effort not to second-guess coaches on their rotations and schemes. Lloyd Pierce knows infinitely more about basketball than I do. Also, I’m not at practice or in the film room with the team every single day. But with that being said, it’s time for the Hawks to free DeAndre’ Bembry (again).
The atmosphere in State Farm Arena on Sunday night was electric. Moments before tipoff felt like the buzz before a concert, or when a girl points across the bar to her friend who she says is into you. Electric.
Hawks fans were raucous, and Lakers/Lebron fans showed up in full force. One obnoxious Lakers fan left with a minute left in the game, citing the need to go plan a championship parade for early June. That fan was me.
@SportsTalkATL 2 obnoxious Lakers fans have arrived pic.twitter.com/o0zy8xUlaB
— Pat Benson (@Pat_Benson_Jr) December 15, 2019
But truth be told, I was nervous throughout the game. The Hawks hung tough all night and had a legitimate chance at beating the best team in the league. It validated my belief that this team has potential, and with a few roster moves, could make a playoff push.
However, the Hawks rotation did not reflect a team with a “win now” mentality. The clear priority this season is getting the rookies experience and letting them go through their growing pains.
I respect that decision, but it’s also frustrating because the scrappy upstart Hawks could have knocked off the Lakers had they played some of their veterans. Evan Turner posted a DNP. His size and strength would have helped counteract the Lakers superior size advantage.
But no player deserved to play more so than DeAndre’ Bembry. The Hawks have the 4th worst defensive rating in the league (113.6) and somehow still held the Lakers to 101 points.
Imagine what the Hawks defense and resulting pace would have looked like if Bembry had gotten off the bench. Statistics show that Bembry is the best perimeter defender on the roster. He’s second in steals (total, per game, per 100 possessions, and steal percentage).
It doesn’t stop there. Bembry is second in DWS (Defensive Win Shares), and second in DBPM (Defensive Box Plus/Minus).
Beyond the box score, Bembry is a Swiss army knife on the defensive end. Standing at 6’6 with a 6’9 wingspan, he is switchable and can fill in at different spots.
Stats and intangibles aside, my favorite thing about his game is the energy he brings every night. Hustle and heart can’t be measured in the box score, but they undeniably positively affect the team.
The last few games Bembry has been buried on the bench. He last started against the Brooklyn Nets on December 4th, where he played 33 minutes and was 1-9 from the field. Since that game, Bembry has played approximately 30 minutes over the course of 4 games. His offensive struggles are factoring into his decrease in playing time. But there are other players in front of him getting reps that are not able to match what he does on the defensive end.
For a team that has trouble making stops, DeAndre’ Bembry should at least be a consistent rotational player, providing a spark off the bench. I have full faith in Coach Pierce, but a part of me fizzles out every time a high-energy player like Bembry receives a DNP.