Roundtable: DeMarcus Cousins, Bryn Forbes, and the new-look Nuggets bench unit

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Stiffs Writers react to the news of DeMarcus Cousins signing a 10-day, Bryn Forbes’ trade, and what it means the rest of the Nuggets rotation

On a Scale of 1 to 10, how do you think the DeMarcus Cousins experiment is going to go?

Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn): I’m feeling frosty today, so let’s go with an eight out of ten. The functionality of the Nuggets second unit up until this point has been dependent on a solid roller in the pick and roll. While he was with the Milwaukee Bucks, over 24% of Cousins’ scoring possessions occurred as the roll man, and he finished those at a rate of 1.22 points per possession (ppp). That’s really good. For reference, JaMychal Green scored at 0.90 ppp, and Jeff Green scored at 1.15 ppp. Cousins has a legitimate skill drawing shooting fouls when he gets moving, and he’s a good enough passer to hit cutters and spot ups as the focal point. I think Denver’s offense is about to improve significantly while Jokić is off the court. We will see about the defense.

Gage Bridgford (@GbridgfordNFL): I think it’s going to be a solid seven or eight. He’s not going to start for Denver, and they’ve been looking for a true backup center all year long. Now, they’ll have a guy that can create his own offense when he’s on the floor with the second unit which also pushes someone out of the second unit and makes that group all around better. After the matchup tonight with the Memphis Grizzlies, he gets two great matchups with the Detroit Pistons to find his groove. I think this is a great move for both parties involved.

Asher Levy (@asherlevynba): I think it’s going to be a fine like six out of ten. He’s not nearly the player he was in his prime, and should be a fine backup center offensively, but he’s a really bad defender from the tape I’ve seen and I don’t expect him to really make a super positive impact. I would love for him to prove me wrong, but I just have a hard time seeing it with Boogie. I think there is room for him to be a good post player on the second unit, and someone the Nuggets could look to for offense in a pinch, but I think the defense is going to hold him back.

Peter Leensvaart (@petepizza27): I think Cousins can bring a lot to the Nuggets bench unit that desperately needs a backup to Nikola Jokic. I’d say that this move is a seven out of ten. I believe that Boogie can be a better option than JaMychal Green off the bench for the Nuggets. While DeMarcus has obviously lost a few steps he is still a big enough frame to be disruptive on the defensive end. Considering he can also space the floor somewhat decently, I think Cousins will be a good fit in Denver and has the potential to stick around past his 10-day contact.

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Will Bryn Forbes play spot minutes or be a permanent addition to the rotation?

Blackburn: Michael Malone is in a really tough position with his bench unit. Excluding the starters, five guards/wings all project to want and deserve playing time until Jamal Murray comes back: Facu Campazzo, Bryn Forbes, Bones Hyland, Austin Rivers, and Davon Reed. Usually, coaches would default to the veteran options, but Campazzo and Rivers have really struggled lately. Forbes is also a veteran, but he plays a similar role to Bones, who has probably been Denver’s most reliable option. Reed also can lay claim to that title, but in a two-way contract, he may not be in the playoff rotation at the end of the year. Due to all of this, I’m guessing Malone will continue to mix and match, trying to keep everyone involved and engaged. More significant decisions will be made when Murray returns.

Bridgford: There are two answers here. One answer is a logical one that, as long as he’s healthy, he should be in the rotation. He’s been in the NBA for six seasons. He was playing around 14 minutes per game for the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks last season, and he’s a career 41.3 percent shooter from 3-point range. He should be effectively handed one of the first two guard spots off of the bench. The answer is the illogical one where he doesn’t earn the trust of Michael Malone and gets buried deep on the bench and ends up playing out the remainder of the year in mop-up minutes.

Levy: I think it really depends on how much Michael Malone ends up trusting him. For all the stats stacked against Facu Campazzo that say he’s a negative for the Nuggets nearly every time he’s on the floor; Malone trusts him. He goes back to Facu frequently when it doesn’t seem he should. If he can end up trusting Forbes more, than I see Forbes as a permanent addition to the rotation due to his shooting output and his gravity. On the other hand, he does struggle on the defensive side of the ball and Malone may get annoyed and pull him from the rotation. Personally, I would bet on Forbes being a part of the rotation permanently though.

Leensvaart: What I believe is going to happen is Bryn will play spot minutes for a few games until he hits his groove here and at that point, he will have hopefully earned the trust of Coach Malone. There should be no reason for Bryn to not be in the standard rotation at the end of the season considering what the front office gave up to get him. With that said there still is a scenario where Forbes doesn’t earn Coach Malone’s trust and never gets significant minutes as he will likely be battling for Facu’s/River’s minutes. I personally love the move and would like to see Bryn in the playoff rotation if he plays up to it.

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Which current Nuggets bench player is most at risk to lose minutes?

Blackburn: Let’s go with Austin Rivers, who has struggled this season to make an impact on the offensive end. Forbes makes sense as the bench shooting guard going forward even though I think the minutes will be split initially. Facu Campazzo is also probably on the precipice too with Bones Hyland potentially seeing some minutes at point guard to make way for Forbes. Still, Rivers is the one to watch here. Davon Reed has simply been better in a bench role than Rivers has, and the Nuggets are nearing the point where whoever’s playing the best basketball has to matter the most for the rotation.

Bridgford: It’s Facundo Campazzo or Austin Rivers. There’s no debate about it. Forbes has been a better player in his career than either of those two, and he has a better track record of success than either one. Once Jamal Murray comes back and reclaims his starting role, both guys should lose their minutes with Monte Morris and Forbes becoming the primary guards for the second unit. As of right now, it’ll likely be Rivers that loses his minutes with Forbes playing more of a shooting guard style role while Facu plays the point guard role.

Levy: It’s probably Facu Campazzo. Austin Rivers and him should both probably be out of the rotation in my opinion, due to Forbes and Bones just being better options to me. Davon Reed is also playing very well as of late, so I don’t see him falling out of the rotation. The Nuggets are better without either of them on the floor anyways, so I think it makes sense to expect them to fall out of the rotation.

Leensvaart: I agree with my colleagues but will choose JaMychal Green as I believe all 3 players (Facu, Rivers, JaMychal) are in the same vein. Green has been pretty bad for the Nuggets recently on the offensive end and he has also taken a step back on the defensive end. With the presence of Zeke Nnaji and now DeMarcus Cousins I would not be surprised to see JaMychal Green out of the rotation.

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Will Denver’s bench additions improve the minutes played without Nikola Jokić on the floor?

Blackburn: The Nuggets are being outscored by 12.3 points per 100 possessions whenever Jokić sits, so I would be shocked if Denver’s bench doesn’t improve. Cousins and Forbes offer a level of competence and stability within their roles that haven’t really existed to this point. Cousins’ role is also naturally closer to a first or second option, and the Nuggets can definitely let him do that with their second unit as long as he’s making the right decisions with the ball in his hands. Will they magically become a positive bench unit? Probably not, but anything closer to even will help the Nuggets a lot.

Bridgford: If for no other reason than players who were struggling will see fewer minutes on the floor, yes. Forbes is an improved over any of Facu, Rivers and Markus Howard while Cousins is an improvement over JaMychal Green. Additionally, with how bad the team has been with Jokic off of the floor, it would be pretty hard for the team to be worse if they were adding better players.

Levy: I think that while Denver’s bench still isn’t fantastic by any means, they’ve brought in better players than what they had and now have an actual center outside of Nikola Jokic. So, I would expect the minutes without Nikola to improve from one of the worst lineups of all time to simply an okay bench unit. It’s also not a very high bar to clear in the first place.

Leensvaart: The flaw with the Nuggets bench is simply that our entire game-plan is Nikola Jokic, when he is off the court Denver has no identity. I do not see the players that were added being that big of difference makers. I do believe the additions were very positive I just don’t think Denver is ever going to solve the bench issue without a significant talent upgrade. But yes, the bench did get better.

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