Griffin a ‘no-brainer’ All-Star; Casey’s case for Drummond starts with Pistons wins

Blake Griffin is a ‘no-brainer’ to earn his sixth All-Star berth, Dwane Casey says
Joe Murphy (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

AUBURN HILLS – It’s a dog-bites-man story when a coach says his guys should be All-Stars, so no surprise that Dwane Casey endorses both Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond for such status.

But Casey volunteered that he voted for Drummond a year ago, as well, when he was coaching the team that would post the best record in the Eastern Conference. Drummond missed the cut initially last season, but eventually joined the All-Star team – his second career berth, also making it in 2016 – as an injury replacement.

Casey knows the best way to eliminate any such contingencies this season: win more games.

“It’s one of those things where I think our record will make it a no-brainer,” Casey said. “If our record is up there, Andre’s definitely in.”

There should be little suspense where Griffin is concerned. He’s averaging a career-high 24.8 points a game, 13th in the NBA, and is seventh in minutes played while leading the Pistons in assists (5.2) and averaging 8.7 rebounds a game despite playing alongside the dominant rebounder of his generation. After making the All-Star team in each of his first five NBA seasons, Griffin has missed out the last three years largely due to injury absences.

Griffin ranked sixth in Eastern Conference voting when the NBA released the initial round of balloting this week, slotted behind Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler and Boston’s Jayson Tatum.

There was a big gap between Griffin in sixth and Vince Carter in seventh with Drummond ranked eighth.

Casey’s case for Drummond starts with that – rebounding dominance – but also includes the accommodations he’s made to embrace Casey’s way of doing things.

“Get him a little bit more freedom could be good or bad as far as trying to expand his game,” he said. “Hopefully, people don’t look at is, he turned it over there, took a bad shot – no, we’re trying to expand his game and he’s doing everything we’ve asked him to do and some. But most of all, you can’t name me a better rebounder in the world than Andre Drummond.”

Casey, like nearly every coach, uses team records to guide his All-Star balloting, but says he also tries to examine every team’s unique situation.

“If it’s close, I look at a team’s record,” he said. “Their record may not be great, but if they’re playing the game right way, guys are trying, getting accustomed to a new system, I would take that into account. But I would look at the record. That’s why I said our record (improving) makes Andre a no-brainer. Blake, to me, is a no-brainer because I think he’s playing at an All-Pro level.”