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SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 27: DeMarcus Cousins #4 of the Denver Nuggets reacts after he made a three-point basket against the Golden State Warriors at the end of the third quarter during Game Five of the Western Conference First Round NBA Playoffs at Chase Center on April 27, 2022 in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Nuggets 2021-22 Player Reviews: DeMarcus Cousins

Writer and Digital Content Specialist

Rarely does a midseason free agent signing become an impact player for a playoff-bound team. It's also uncommon to see a backup center instantly become a fan and locker room favorite. However, in his half-season with the Denver Nuggets, DeMarcus Cousins accomplished both of these feats.

Cousins signed with the Nuggets on a hardship 10-day contract in the middle of January, with the team in desperate need of someone who could play in relief of reigning MVP Nikola Jokić for several minutes each night.

Then, when that deal expired, he signed an official 10-day without the attached hardship exception. Shortly after, he signed a second true 10-day, the maximum allowed by NBA rules. And when that ran out, the Nuggets made the easy decision to bring in Cousins for the remainder of the 2021-22 season.

Not only was Cousins a strong vocal leader -- juxtaposing Jokić who prefers to lead by example -- his play style allowed the team to run nearly the exact same offense regardless of which center was on the floor.

He was a seamless fit for the Nuggets, and was praised profusely throughout 2022, earning himself quality minutes during the team's postseason run as the backup for one of the NBA's best players.

Cousins' Season Timeline

Cousins began the 2021-22 season as a free agent despite a successful stint with the Los Angeles Clippers to end the 2020-21 campaign. However, he was quickly picked up by the Milwaukee Bucks, where he made his debut on Dec. 1.

After a solid month-long stretch with the Bucks, he was waived on Jan. 6, 2022, becoming a free agent once again shortly after. Two weeks later, on Jan. 21, the Nuggets signed Cousins to the first of three 10-day contracts.

He played four games on his first deal, but struggled with shooting efficiency and foul trouble, committing 3.0 fouls per game in only 12.6 minutes of play. Even still, his leadership qualities -- and his talents -- convinced Denver to sign him to a second 10-day deal on Jan. 29.

On this contract, he played just one game after being inactive for the first four contests. He scored five points and grabbed nine rebounds in a 20-point win against the Brooklyn Nets, and was rewarded with a third 10-day on Feb. 10.

The third and final temporary contract would take him through the All-Star Break, playing three more games with the team in the process. In this stint, his shooting numbers began to climb and his defensive metrics showed significant improvement. In short, he was showing exactly what type of role he could play in a full-time capacity.

After the All-Star Break ended, Cousins was signed to a rest-of-season contract. And from there, Cousins flourished.

In the final 23 games of the regular season, Cousins averaged 9.9 points and 5.3 rebounds on 51.0% from the field and 33.9% from three. He even started two games that Jokić missed, earning the trust of the coaching staff and the front office.

In one of his starts against the Houston Rockets, Cousins finished with 31 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and three steals in a 15-point victory.

In the Playoffs, Cousins appeared in all five games against the Golden State Warriors, playing an average of 11.2 minutes per game. In that time, he shot with scorching accuracy from three-point range, hitting 66.7% of his attempts from that distance.

Facts and Figures

In 31 regular season appearances, Cousins finished with averages of 8.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in 13.9 minutes per night. He shot 45.6% from the field, 32.4% from three, and 73.6% from the free throw line.

But advanced metrics favor Cousins' defense with the Nuggets. On that end, he provided the team with a steady veteran who could alter shots and grab defensive boards to start fast break opportunities.