In the 2016 NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks pulled off a deal that got them Taurean Prince from the Utah Jazz. In retrospect, that move helped secure a core piece of what the team is currently building. However, Prince has often overshadowed the player the Hawks selected with their own first-round pick, DeAndre’ Bembry.
Taken 21st overall out of St. Joseph’s, Bembry was a point-forward prospect who made plays on both ends of the floor. With the Golden State Warriors going 73-9 and coming off back-to-back NBA Finals appearances, the smart teams were looking for players that could replicate what the Warriors had unearthed with small-ball lineups.
Bembry measured at 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, perfect dimensions for a modern-day wing. An unheralded recruit out of high school, Bembry—a North Carolina native—finished at famed New Jersey high school, St. Patrick’s. He quickly acclimated to college winning A-10 co-Rookie of the Year. He also made First-Team All A-10 in each of his final two collegiate seasons. Lastly, Bembry took home A-10 and Big 5 Player of the year honors in his junior season.
In his first two seasons, Bembry played a total of 64 games. He just crossed the 82 game threshold THIS SEASON. So if we count those 82 games across three seasons, Bembry’s “rookies numbers are 4.5 points per game, 1.4 assists per game, 2.7 rebounds per game, 0.6 steals per game in 15 minutes per game.
When comparing those numbers to other current players’ rookie statistics, some interesting names come up (Steven Adams, Dewayne Dedmon, Rudy Gobert, and DeAndre Jordan) however, Bembry isn’t a seven-foot-plus center. The name that really pops out is Golden State jack-of-all-trades All-Star, Draymond Green.
In 79 games as a rookie, Green played 13.4 minutes per game, 2.9 points per game, 3.3 rebounds per game, 0.7 assists per game, and 0.5 steals per game. The odds are slim that Bembry morphs into an era-defining, perennial Defensive Player of the Year type talent. But it would be silly to write off the third-year wing given how small of a sample size we’ve seen from him so far.
An injury to David Lee and a coaching change helped unlock the Green we know now. The Hawks underwent a coaching change this offseason and with Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince missing the past three games, an opportunity has knocked on Bembry’s door and he’s responded resoundingly.
With the Hawks facing Mike Budenholzer for the first time since the coach and team mutually parted ways, Bembry poured in a season-high 19 points in 22 minutes off the bench. That showing prompted Lloyd Pierce to insert Bembry in the starting lineup for the next game against the Miami Heat. Bembry had 17 points, two assists, and two rebounds in 27 minutes. He was a plus-26 in a 24-point victory.
After the game, Pierce began his media availability with this quote, “I guess I should’ve started DeAndre a lot earlier.”