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30Q: Can DeMarcus Cousins make the leap to stardom this year?

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There's no questioning the fact that DeMarcus Cousins is the Kings' best player and one of the better young big men in the league. But will he take it a step further this season and make the leap into stardom?

Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

2011-12 Statistics:

64 Games Played, 30.5 MPG, 18.1 PPG, .448 FG%,11.0 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.5 STL, 1.2 BLK

Contract Status:

2 years, $8.8 million remaining

The premise of this player preview may confuse some. Didn't DeMarcus Cousins show last season that he was already a star? How many big men in the league produce as many points, or as many rebounds as DeMarcus Cousins? Not many. Didn't DeMarcus also lead the NBA in charges drawn? How, after last season, can you say that DeMarcus Cousins is anything but a star?

To me, being a star goes beyond statistics. There's no question in my mind that DeMarcus Cousins was phenomenal last year, and has given myself and other fans great hope for the team's future (on the court at least). There's no doubt he is the Kings' best player. But he's not a star, not yet. However, given his growth curve over the past two years, there is a great chance he makes that leap this season.

The best part about last season with regards to DeMarcus is he was very good but with a lot of room to improve. The only area where I'd say DeMarcus is absolutely set for years to come is in his rebounding. If DeMarcus keeps rebounding at the same rate as last season, he'll be the Sacramento-era franchise leader in total rebounds by the end of his 5th year, and that's assuming he only continues to play around 30 minutes a game, which brings me to my next point.

The only reason DeMarcus' minutes per game are so low compared to other great players is because of foul trouble. DeMarcus has an unfortunate knack for picking up fouls, and a lot of them are unforced. He's led the league in total fouls in both of his first two seasons, and for him and the team to get better, that needs to end this year. Perhaps this means going for less steals. While DeMarcus Cousins has a super high steal rate for a big man, it also leads to a bunch of gambles that often end in fouls. The 2.4% of the time it ends up in a steal is not worth it in the long run. DeMarcus also picks up a few fouls trying to draw charges, but that is one thing I do not want him to stop doing. Drawing charges is one of the most effective defensive stops since it guarantees possession for your team and charges the other team with a foul. DeMarcus must also improve his reputation with the refs, which means less sulking and complaining, which to his credit, he did much better last year than his rookie campaign.

Offensively, DeMarcus must, must, must become more efficient. His usage rate last year was a whopping 29.7%, meaning that almost a third of the Kings offensive possessions ended with DeMarcus. That high usage is likely to remain, so it's paramount that they are used more effectively. 44.8% from the field is not good for someone of DeMarcus Cousin's size and ability. A big part of this is that DeMarcus shoots a lot of jumpers for a big man, which will bring FG% down for anyone. But more worryingly, his Field Goal % at the rim and near the basket is very low for a big man. Last season DeMarcus shot just 56.7% at the rim, which while on the surface looks good, begins to pale in comparison to the 65+% most other big men have. The addition of Clifford Ray to the coaching staff should be a big help here, particularly in developing a Post Game. DeMarcus often tries to be too tricky for his own good, and the only thing that he could call a "go-to" move is a quick spin in the post. He needs to bring more half hooks to his game, and use more power than finesse around the rim.

He also should make an effort to draw more fouls. This will be a trying task for his patience, because whether he likes it or not, big men often see a disproportion amount of physical abuse taken to fouls actually called. But DeMarcus is a good Free Throw shooter for a big men, which is uncommon, and so should look to get to the line as often as possible. Attacking the basket with force rather than finesse will help translate into more attempts and hopefully less shots blocked or missed.

Another huge improvement DeMarcus needs to make doesn't actually have anything to do with his overall game at all, even though it impacts it. It's his fitness and conditioning level. DeMarcus isn't in poor condition or anything like it, but he's also never been in great NBA shape. With Keith Smart, this team wants to rebound and run, and if the team has to wait for their best player to make it back up the court, it kind of throws things off. Earlier this summer, I was a bit worried about what shape DeMarcus would come into camp in after seeing videos of him training with Team USA. He looked to be at least 300 pounds. However, recent video from a Kentucky alumni game has allayed my fears:

He looks to be in good shape heading into the upcoming season, and training camp hasn't started yet. If he cuts his fouls and sees more time on the court, he'll need to be at peak conditioning to make the most of that. Better conditioning should also help with sticking to players defensively and on his efficiency around the rim since he'll be able to elevate quicker.

So I stand by my statement that DeMarcus Cousins isn't a star yet. But I very much think he will be one day, perhaps as soon as this season. Once he makes that transition, the Kings can finally begin to head upwards out of the muck.