The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the entire NBA, with over 200 players entering health and safety protocols this season. The Milwaukee Bucks are no exception. Several players, including reigning Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, entered COVID-19 protocols in mid-December. The team is nearly out of the woods, with Thanasis Antetokounmpo and Semi Ojeleye the only ones currently sidelined by the situation.
Amid the difficult campaign, the Bucks have found a gem who has been stepping up for them with so many bodies down. That man is none other than DeMarcus Cousins.
The Bucks signed Cousins on November 30 to fill in for injured center Brook Lopez. The four-time All-Star found himself out of the league prior to the start of the season, but it seems Cousins has found a home in Milwaukee.
He came in on a non-guaranteed deal and the Bucks have until January 7 to fully guarantee his contract for the rest of the season. With the way he has been playing, it seems like a no-brainer for the Bucks to keep Cousins.
In 15 games this season, Cousins is averaging 8.7 points and 5.7 rebounds while shooting 44.8% from the field. Those numbers are obviously a far cry from his 25-and-12 days when he was an All-NBA center for the Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans. But he has been more than a welcome addition off the bench for a Bucks team that has not been at full strength the majority of the season.
In his short stints, Cousins has displayed flashes of his former dominant self. Bobby Portis, who filled in for Lopez in the starting lineup, went down with COVID-19 midway through December. Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer turned to Cousins and gave him the starting nod in Portis' absence.
The former Kentucky star averaged 14.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.2 steals in over 23 minutes per game in his five starts. He even turned back the clock with a 22-point, eight-rebound performance in a win over the Dallas Mavericks on December 23. Obviously, given all the injuries he has gone through, Cousins' beaten-down body couldn't handle a huge workload anymore. But as he showed, he could still play effectively in a smaller yet featured role for a championship-caliber unit like the Bucks.
Lopez has been out indefinitely and hasn't played since receiving his championship ring on opening night. The 7-footer had surgery on his back and there is still no timetable for his return. There are reports that he could come back just in time or even prior to the NBA Playoffs. But back injuries are no joke, and the Bucks will definitely want to exercise extreme caution with the 33-year-old Lopez.
As such, DeMarcus Cousins should play past his non-guaranteed deal and continue to be a part of the rotation of the Bucks moving forward. He may no longer be the main guy that he once was, but he has been the Bucks' unsung hero through this weird NBA season.