Auburn Hills — It’s been more than a decade since the Pistons had two players selected for the All-Star Game.
That streak could end this season, with the way their two big men are producing in the first half of the season. Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond could provide a rare double for the Pistons, as both players are among the top 10 frontcourt players in the initial tally of fans’ All-Star votes released by the league on Thursday.
Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo leads the East with 991,561 votes and ballots are separated by frontcourt and backcourt players. Griffin is sixth among frontcourt players at 192,694 and Drummond is eighth at 68,204.
In his first full season with the Pistons, Griffin is posting the best stats of his career: 24.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists. Fully healthy for the first time in a few years, he’s poised for his sixth All-Star selection.
Drummond, with 17.1 points and 14.9 rebounds, has posted similar numbers to last season, when he earned his second career All-Star nod. But given the Pistons’ losing record, some fans and coaches may not see fit to grant the Pistons a second All-Star.
“We have to get our record improved. That’s what all the fans are looking at. In the coaches’ minds, I know Blake is and I know Andre is one of the better centers in the Eastern Conference and I voted for him last year,” coach Dwane Casey said. “If our record is up there, it’s a no-brainer and I think Andre is in.”
With only 12 players selected for each conference — six guards and six frontcourt in the East last season — Drummond becomes the question for the Pistons. Since moving away from having centers and forwards selected separately, Drummond’s case is harder because of players like Griffin, who can play both positions.
When coaches, fans and media members have to whittle down their votes and differentiate between certain players, the difference often is the team’s record. Casey said it’s been a determiner for him in the past and it’s not always a clear-cut method. Sometimes, there are other things to consider as well.
“I’m guilty of it; if it’s close, I look at a team’s record in terms of how they’re playing,” he said. “Their record may not be great, but if they’re playing the game the right way, that’s another thing. Guys are trying to get accustomed to a new system and way of doing things and I’d take that into account.
“That’s why I said our record makes Andre a no-brainer. Blake, to me, is a no-brainer and he’s playing at an All-(NBA) level.”
Among centers, Drummond only trails the 76ers’ Joel Embiid in the voting; he leads the Celtics’ Al Horford by about 6,000 votes. There’s no guarantee that when all the votes are counted — fan voting counts for 50 percent, select media voting is another 25 percent and coaches have the final 25 percent — there will be two or even three centers.
Casey points to Drummond’s improvement in a new system and adding new pieces to his game as attributes that can get overlooked in examining Drummond’s case.
“He’s one of the elite rebounders in the world, as far as going and getting it. A little more freedom could be good or bad in terms of expanding his game,” Casey said. “It makes it seem like he’s not improved or doing things he can’t do. The only way you can do it is trying it in a game.
“Hopefully, people don’t look at it as turning it over. He’s trying to expand his game and he’s doing everything we’re asking him to do. He’s doing a great job of screening and you can’t name me a better rebounder in the world than Andre Drummond.”
L.A. Lakers star LeBron James, who hasn’t played since suffering a groin injury during the Christmas Day matchup against the Warriors, will be out a bit longer.
The team announced that James will miss the next two road games as well as Wednesday’s home matchup against the Pistons at Staples Center. James will be re-evaluated next Friday.
Jazz at Pistons
Tip-off: 7 p.m. Saturday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
Outlook: The Pistons (17-19) have both meetings this season against the Jazz in the next 10 days. Donovan Mitchell (20.1 points) averaged 14 points, 6.5 rebounds and four assists in two wins over the Pistons last season.