Denver Nuggets re-sign DeMarcus Cousins, was he the best option out there?

Denver Nuggets center DeMarcus Cousins (4) drives against Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch (24) in the first half at Scotiabank Arena on 12 Feb. 2022. (Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)
Denver Nuggets center DeMarcus Cousins (4) drives against Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch (24) in the first half at Scotiabank Arena on 12 Feb. 2022. (Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Denver Nuggets have signed DeMarcus Cousins for the remainder of the season, taking up the 15th and final roster spot and solidifying the team for its playoff push.

The move, reported by Shams Charania, The Athletic, was expected to happen as Boogie has brought a sense of stability to a Nuggets bench unit that was starving for consistency behind Nikola Jokic.

Interestingly, the move happened roughly a week before the player buyout/waiver deadline on 1 Mar. 2022, so Tim Connelly and the Denver Nuggets front office must have been certain that Boogie was their guy.

In Cousins’ eight games with Denver, he’s averaging 6.1 points, and 6.3 rebounds while shooting a horrific 30 percent from the floor.

But it’s not his scoring figures that have won him a roster spot, it’s his ability to slide the rest of the roster into their natural positions. Before adding Cousins, Michael Malone was cobbling together bench units with either Zeke Nnaji or JaMychal Green at backup center. While both are capable of playing down a position in a pinch, it wasn’t a long-term solution.

In his small sample size, Cousins has done an excellent job at limiting opponent shots at the rim. Opponents shoot 5.8 percent worse at the rim, within four feet of the basket according to Cleaning the Glass, a mark that would put him near the top of the league.

Using the same metric, opponents are shooting considerably worse from the 3-point line but given Boogie’s role on defense, that’s likely just noise and has nothing to do with his on-court impact.

Those stats are only in 105 minutes of non-garbage time play but it’s a positive sign nonetheless.

Denver Nuggets: Was DeMarcus Cousins the best free agent big man?

By committing to DeMarcus Cousins a week before the buyout deadline, the Denver Nuggets forfeit a slight opportunity cost that a better player could become available.

This past week, we saw Tristan Thompson agree to a buyout with the Indiana Pacers and sign with the Chicago Bulls. In my opinion, Boogie is a better player and a better fit but there’s always the possibility that someone else becomes available.

In an article looking at the four best post-deadline buyout candidates, I wrote about the possibility of a Derrick Favors buyout. It’s not likely but would he be a better fit than Cousins?

Other centers currently on the free agent market are Enes Freedom, Petr Cornelie (former Denver Nuggets two-way player), Moses Brown, and Marc Gasol among others. Gasol would attract plenty of attention across the league if he decided to return and the Milwaukee Bucks reportedly reached out to see if he was interested before making the Serge Ibaka trade.

So really, Boogie is the best big man on the market. Add that to the personal connection with Malone, some solid defensive numbers, and the likelihood that he’ll improve on offense (he can’t get any worse), and it’s a great signing.

When the playoffs roll around, Jokic will be playing 40-plus minutes and a backup center will hardly factor into the rotation so look at this as a regular season move.

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