DeAndre’ Bembry is making the most of his opportunities for the Raptors this season. Currently in his inaugural season with Toronto, the 26-year-old wing has earned a regular place among the Raps’ rotation — which didn’t seem like it would happen after he sat for nine games and barely appeared in the season’s first month. As Bembry and his team’s identity emerged through the opening half of the NBA season, so too has his potential to contribute on a nightly basis in a highly competitive Eastern Conference.
Consistent play at both ends of the floor resulted in Bembry’s uptick in minutes per-game since the start of 2021. After breaking the 10-minute mark just once over 18 games, Bembry is now averaging 16.3 minutes through his 26 appearances during the 2020-21 campaign. In those minutes, the Saint Joseph’s University alum is averaging 4.5 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per-game. Though not exactly eye-popping numbers, Bembry has found his place in various Raptors lineups as the lead ball-handler, off-ball cutter, and advantageous scorer. As a result of his efforts, Bembry actually leads the team in field goal percentage at 58.8 percent. Yes, he’s not a high-volume shooter, but Bembry picks his spots well.
Bembry’s calm demeanour and ability to distribute the ball with ease and confidence, ability to lock in defensively, and contribute on offense when needed has been a welcome surprise for a Toronto roster that’s seen it’s fair share of ups-and-downs through injury and inconsistency. The former Atlanta Hawks’ ability to lock into Raptors head coach Nick Nurse’s defence-first, hard-work mentality is one of the key reasons he has seen increasing minutes as the season has progressed.
“I enjoy battling and being physical, I’m comfortable doing that,” Bembry said, following Toronto’s impressive February 21, 110-103 win over the Sixers in his third (of four) starts for Nurse this year. It’s this sensibility that has gotten Bembry more time on the floor for the Raptors. While not known as a shooter, his hustling and opportunistic play — coupled with his defensive versatility in the backcourt and on the wing — have helped the Raptors scrounge together points when necessary.
Bembry’s most recent season with Atlanta that saw his time on the floor average out at just over 21 minutes per game, aligned itself with the needs of Toronto for the team’s current campaign in Tampa. Despite a slow start, the combination of pandemic and injury-related issues have thrust Bembry into the lineup with an abundance of minutes to fill at a moments notice. In all, the more sizable role on the Raptors has allowed him to emulate his role with the Hawks as a viable option off the bench. Bembry’s signing is the latest example of president Masai Ujiri and GM Bobby Webster’s uncanny ability to identify “under-the-radar” players that can step into a role with the never-say-die, championship culture of the Raptors organization.
“Once I was able to be a free agent and be able to actually look at other teams and got to figure out that Toronto still wanted to look and bring me in I was ready to go with it as soon as my agents talked about it,” Bembry stated on the Raptors’ YouTube series Open Gym. “It was just an opportunity I couldn’t turn down for the most part… I was just ready to go, to be honest with you.”
The Raptors’ championship culture that once piqued Bembry’s interest is now one that he is actively contributing to as a member of the team. With an upcoming second half schedule that is growing more congested by the week and an uncertain lineup on any given game day providing opportunities to players throughout the lineup, it’s entirely possible that Raptors fans haven’t seen the best of Bembry yet.