Denver Nuggets: Early impressions on newly acquired players

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The Denver Nuggets doubled down on their commitment to chasing an NBA title this season with two recent acquisitions in Bryn Forbes and DeMarcus Cousins. Forbes was acquired in a three-team trade from the San Antonio Spurs, while Cousins was a free agent signed to a 10-day contract.

The two were brought in to bolster a lackluster bench unit for the Nuggets, and each has a distinct role to play if the bench is going to show signs of life down the stretch. So far, the returns have shown promise, but there is plenty of work to maximize both players, individually and together.

Denver Nuggets center DeMarcus Cousins warms up before the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Ball Arena on 21 Jan. 2022. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

Denver Nuggets center DeMarcus Cousins warms up before the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Ball Arena on 21 Jan. 2022. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

Denver Nuggets: What has DeMarcus Cousins brought to the team?

Before the Cousins acquisition, the Nuggets desperately needed a big man off the bench. The combination of JaMychal Green and Zeke Nnaji simply wasn’t cutting it against teams with a true backup center. Luckily, Cousins has been a solid fit for the Nuggets’ reserve unit.

Above all else, Boogie Cousins has brought size to a bench unit that so desperately needed a true big man. Adding Cousins allows coach Michael Malone to pair forwards like Zeke Nnaji and JaMychal Green with Cousins off the bench, two players who were previously miscast as small-ball centers.

Cousins has had an impact as a screener, providing a legitimate pick-and-roll partner for Facundo Campazzo. While he’s not the lob threat that would ideally pair with Campazzo, Cousins is still a smart player who knows how to get to the basket and create ‘and-one’ opportunities.

Along with his screen setting, Cousins has been excellent as a rebounder averaging 6.3 rebounds in just under 13 minutes per game. Cousins has a notable advantage over most opposing bigs in the rebounding department and has been excellent for the Nuggets’ bench in that regard.

Finally, Cousins has brought an attitude to the bench unit that simply hasn’t been there all season. While Cousins has three technical fouls in his four games, including an ejection, his energy and presence on the court have had a positive impact on a bench unit that has often looked lifeless throughout the season.

What can Cousins improve on for the Denver Nuggets?

Cousins has excelled at big-man things for the Nuggets. His shooting, on the other hand, has been rough.

The Denver Nuggets signed DeMarcus Cousins after being released by the Milwaukee Bucks, and Cousins has unsurprisingly looked out of shape to start his tenure with Denver. Cousins even spoke on his own conditioning, saying he felt like he was playing with “two cement blocks” on his feet, per Harrison Wind, DNVR.

In his time with the Nuggets, Cousins is shooting just 62.5 percent from the free-throw line, to go with 27.3 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from beyond the arc. Cousins’ numbers are rough, but continued playing time and chemistry should help his scoring improve.

Additionally, Cousins has been in foul trouble early and often. In his four games with the Nuggets, he has 12 personal fouls, to go along with an ejection against the Brooklyn Nets. As his conditioning improves, so will his ability to protect the paint.

Overall, Cousins has been a serviceable big man off the bench for the Nuggets, something they desperately needed. As Boogie continues to play his way into shape, we should see his game improve little by little.

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