The Milwaukee Bucks have already felt DeMarcus Cousins’ absence

Dec 23, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 23, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

The Milwaukee Bucks were met with immediate criticism for their decision to waive big man DeMarcus Cousins last week, and justifiably so.

Cousins played well for the defending champs after being brought aboard in early December, averaging 9.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 16.9 minutes per contest. Despite how strongly he played, the team decided to waive him before his non-guaranteed contract would have become fully guaranteed for the remainder of the season. Fans were rightfully upset with Milwaukee’s decision to move on from Cousins, as the Bucks have missed what he brings to the table off the bench in their three games since waiving him.

In the three games since waiving DeMarcus Cousins, the Milwaukee Bucks’ bench has been downright awful

Since waiving Cousins last Wednesday, the Bucks have gone 1-2. They looked great in the first game against the Brooklyn Nets but then dropped two straight versus the Charlotte Hornets. In those three matchups, the one common denominator was the subpar play from the second unit. According to, Milwaukee’s bench averaged 11.7 points while shooting a grueling 13-of-66 (19 percent) from the field and 4-of-40 (10 percent) from 3-point range. In addition to the sluggish scoring, the bench averaged 11.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 5.5 turnovers per game. Unsurprisingly, this unit totaled a +/- of -26 during their 46 minutes on the floor.

To add context, the bench numbers were bound to dip as the Bucks placed both Jordan Nwora and Wesley Matthews into the starting five over these three games. Those two were key reserves for this depleted Milwaukee team, but the Bucks have plenty of players that were capable of stepping up in their place. Unfortunately, that was far from the case, as the numbers suggest.

Langston Galloway, who is signed on a 10-day deal, shot a horrendous 1-of-13 from the floor in this stretch, which included missing all eight of his 3-point attempts. Donte DiVincenzo returned to the lineup in Monday’s game following an ankle sprain and did not hit a shot in eight attempts, while Pat Connaughton also came back that game and added six misses of his own. Rodney Hood has looked better recently after a slow start to the season, but he had a recent 0-for-5 shooting night mixed in there as well.

Another player that has seen an extended opportunity in this stretch is Sandro Mamukelashvili, the rookie second round pick that is Milwaukee’s backup big man now. Given that the Seton Hall product is among the team’s few options off the bench that provides size, they have attempted to baptize him by fire by putting him out on the floor in these matchups. While he has shown some potential, it is clear that the rookie needs more time before he has a shot at becoming a legitimate rotation piece in this league.

Mamukelashvili’s extended playing time has reflected just how important Cousins was for this bench brigade. While the four-time All-Star was less than stellar defensively, he brought ample amounts of scoring, rebounding, and passing to give the Bucks a spark off the bench every single time he checked into the game. With so many regular rotational pieces – including starting center Brook Lopez – all missing from the lineup, Cousins was perfect for the Bucks. While his absence may not hinder them long term, it will unquestionably continue to do so in the short term.

Milwaukee’s bench has been among their weakest areas this season, even before they let Cousins go. They currently rank 29th in points, 20th in rebounds, and 29th in assists per game on the year. At the end of the day, numbers like that are not going to get the job done for a true title contender, and although Cousins was not making a case for Sixth Man of the Year or anything, there is no way anyone could deny his impact off the bench during his brief time with the Milwaukee Bucks.

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The Bucks desperately must now find a way to improve the production from their second unit.