New Hawks style suits Bembry

DeAndre’ Bembry (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

DeAndre’ Bembry beams while thinking back to when he first heard the Hawks would play an offensive style that seems to fit him perfectly.

“Shoot, me and Malcolm (Delaney) heard that and we were like, ‘Yeah!’” Bembry said. “That’s exactly what we wanted coming into the second season for us. When your coach wants you to be aggressive, that gives you a motive. That gives you a clear mind. ‘Your coach wants you to do this, so why not go out there and be aggressive?’ It was a big smile for sure when we heard.”

With big men Dwight Howard and Paul Millsap departed, the Hawks plan to use more perimeter-oriented approach. The idea is that with the bigs on the perimeter, and with quick ball movement and cuts, there will be more space for drivers. As Dennis Schroder put it: “The lane is wide open.”

Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince and especially Schroder should benefit from the new approach. Bembry probably is the second-unit player best suited to take advantage. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-6 wing with good handles and passing ability and he finishes strong at the rim.

Bembry is at his best driving to the basket and now he should get more chances to do so.

“It opens up a lot of opportunities for myself, Taurean, Baze for us to start getting more downhill and attacking the bigs and attacking whoever is guarding us,” Bembry said. “That’s going to open up more shots not even just for ourselves but for our teammates, our bigs and our shooters on the wing. That’s right up my alley. That’s how I play. Use the speed, use my athleticism and make the right play.”

Bembry also has the potential to a be a very good wing defender. The Hawks plan to play an aggressive, “scrappy” style of defense that also suits him.

“I got in there every once in a while last year and I was guarding LeBron James, James Harden end of the game and holding my own,” he said. “So just off of that, after last year, I am pretty confident. Coming into this year, I would say I’m probably the best defensive wing player, if not the best defender on the team. I just take the pride on the defensive and believe I can guard anybody.

Bembry played just 371 minutes as a rookie under coach Mike Budenholzer. His playing time was erratic save for a February stretch when Thabo Seflolosha was out. Now Bembry figures to be a regular part of the wing rotation along with Bazemore, Prince and Marco Belinelli.

Bembry recovered quickly from a preseason triceps injury. In just his second game back, against the Grizzlies on Monday, Bembry showed how he can spark the Hawks as a play-maker, shot creator and defensive nuisance.

“DeAndre can impact the game with individual defense, keeping guys in front of him and making it tough to shoot and finish over him,” Budenholzer said afterward. “I thought on the other end — he drives and kicks it to Ersan (Ilyasova) for a 3 — he gets in the paint and finds other guys. He gets to the free-throw line. When you are getting stops on one end, it’s creating running opportunities and hopefully playing against a defense that’s not set and makes it a lot easier to run the offense.

“I think his defense leads to us play well on both ends. To see him out there moving and attacking and playing, he’s just got a natural feel for the game.”

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