Nuggets journal: Will Bryn Forbes and DeMarcus Cousins bring consistent relief?

Late Friday night, after Nikola Jokic finished grappling with Memphis’ hulking center Steven Adams, the Nuggets’ most essential piece spoke like he’d just downed some truth serum.

Asked what he felt the Nuggets’ most pressing concern was, Jokic explained what’s been apparent to anyone and everyone who’s paid attention.

“I think the consistency has been the biggest factor in our team right now,” he said. “You can see, sometimes we are playing really good in the first half and then losing in the second half … Sometimes the bench is playing good, sometimes the starter is playing good. If we can find like a golden middle and just be as consistent in some areas, that’s going to help us a lot.”

That was the final question of his postgame news conference. Jokic walked off the podium but not before lauding himself for his response.

“Great answer,” he said to no one in particular.

The Nuggets fell to the Grizzlies, a possible playoff opponent, for the third time this season. After scoring 15 points in the first half, Denver’s bench managed just two points in the second half. A pivotal run at the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth quarter swung the game. Jokic got about three minutes of rest and returned to a 12-point deficit instead of the six-point margin he’d left them with.

The Nuggets’ bench had been the culprit again. According to NBA.com, Denver’s bench averages 33 points per game, good for 20th in the league. Their collective plus/minus is at -2.7, the fourth-lowest mark in the league. Orlando, Detroit and New Orleans are the only teams that are worse.

Inconsistencies abound on the Nuggets – look no further than their hot and cold 3-point shooting – but the truth is that these swings are almost inevitable when so many key pieces are injured. Guys are playing out of position and up a rung (or two) in the pecking order.

The good news is that help has arrived. Bryn Forbes had a modest nine points in his debut, but vowed he’d be better. A career 41% 3-point shooter, the numbers support his claim.

When he walked off the floor Friday night he said “my bad,” to Nuggets coach Michael Malone, who told him he had nothing to apologize for. All Malone asks is that his guys play hard, and Forbes did.

With more time and more comfort (Forbes had one shootaround to learn the names of the play calls), the sniper should fit in just fine alongside Jokic.

“He sees you even when you don’t think he sees you,” said Forbes, who won a championship last season with Milwaukee.

And of the lane that he plans to fill?

“Pride myself for hitting shots and playing hard,” he added.

The 10-day addition of DeMarcus Cousins should offer more ballast to Denver’s much-maligned second unit, too. Cousins didn’t debut Friday due to a minor leg issue, but Malone was optimistic Sunday, against the Pistons, would be the day.

And even though we’re a long nine days from Cousins’ initial contract coming up, Malone intimated the pairing could extend beyond the trial period.

“When you’re a four-time All-Star, and you’re a guy that can put 28 points a night up, he has talent,” Malone said. “So many times this year we’ve seen second units just switch everything. I think DeMarcus is a guy that it makes it hard for other teams to just say we’re going to switch one through five and live with it.”

Due to injuries to Michael Porter Jr. and since-traded P.J. Dozier, the Nuggets have lacked any girth off the bench. Bones Hyland is a lithe, slippery scorer, and neither Facu Campazzo nor Forbes offers much muscle. Cousins has the potential to change the identity of that group, assuming his audition goes well.

“I think DeMarcus is a very effective low-post player,” he added. “I hope people realize that he’s also a hell of a play-maker. Willing passer, capable passer. I think he can just give us another weapon out there that’ll make us a little bit harder to defend on nights when teams are just going small and switching everything.”

With a little bit of luck, and – deep breath – health, consistency might be around the corner.

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