Omari Sankofa II | Detroit Free Press
The NBA announced the final results of the 2021 All-Star vote on Thursday, and Jerami Grant was one of the top vote-getters in the Eastern Conference. His 427,925 fan votes and 34 votes from his fellow players gave him a ninth-place finish among frontcourt players.
But he wasn’t voted in as a starter, and the Detroit Pistons’ star forward will need a little help to make the All-Star Game on March 7 in Atlanta.
That Grant is even in consideration to be an All-Star is a testament to the strength of his season. A career role player, Grant has emerged as one of the best forwards in the NBA at 26 years old. He has been the Pistons’ best player on both sides of the court, and his numbers compare favorably to his competition.
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Coach Dwane Casey is making it his mission to get Grant in the game. Head coaches are responsible for voting in the All-Star Game reserves, which include seven players from each conference. The results of their vote will be revealed Tuesday at 7 p.m., and the Pistons are hopeful Grant will hear his name called.
“He’s got a lot of years to go in this league and I have no doubt with his progress going forward, he will be an All-Star, whether this year or in the future,” Casey said. “I’m going to campaign my butt off with the coaches to try to get him in there, but again, whether it does happen or not, it’s still a credit to him just to get in that top-10. A lot of the guys in front of him have been at it in those star roles for a long time, or a few years at least. I have no doubt this is going to propel him in the conversation going forward.”
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After Friday’s slate of games, Grant is 12th in scoring in the East averaging 23.5 points per game. He’s averaging 5.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.2 blocks. Among players in the mix for the reserve spots, he’s seventh in scoring. He’s among the conference’s best 3-point shooters, hitting 37.8% of his 6.8 attempts, and has lived up to his reputation as one of the most versatile defenders in the league.
Taking both sides of the floor into account, Grant has been one of the more complete players in the NBA this season. But working against him is the Pistons’ 8-21 record, the worst winning percentage in the East. The All-Star game is ultimately a popularity contest, but the coaches’ vote has historically been biased toward players who are on playoff teams.
Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal famously didn’t make the All-Star Game as a starter or reserve last season despite being one of the best scorers. Washington was firmly outside the playoff race during the voting period and with a 25-47 record. Voters made it up this year by giving Beal the most votes among East guards with nearly 3.5 million, but it illustrates how hard it can be to make the game on a team with a bad record.
“I think everybody’s goal is to get to that level, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen,” Grant recently said when asked how he thinks Detroit’s record will impact his candidacy. “I’m not really worried about it or anything.”
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Grant has affected the Pistons positively, even if it isn’t reflected in the record. The Pistons are outscoring teams by 9.6 points per 100 possessions when Grant is on the floor, good for the 84th percentile, according to Cleaning The Glass. But looking at the field, there are numerous players who have strong arguments.
Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and James Harden all received more than a million votes and play for contending teams. Zach LaVine, in the midst of a career year and averaging 28.5 points per game, also received more than a million votes from fans.
Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers) and Julius Randle (New York Knicks), who placed top-10 in fan voting among frontcourt players, have their respective teams firmly in the playoff race. Trae Young is a strong wild card, as he’s one of the most exciting players to watch and was the top vote-getter among East guards a year ago. He didn’t crack a million this year and the Hawks have cooled off after a hot start, but he finished sixth overall.
Toronto Raptors’ Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, Milwaukee Bucks wing Khris Middleton, and others could also be in the mix.
Regardless of Tuesday’s result, Casey said Grant’s candidacy is deserved and rewards his leap forward this season. There will be more All-Star games, but it would be a major accomplishment for Grant to make the game this year, midway through the best season of his career.
“It’s good to see his hard work pay off, if he is fortunate enough to be voted in,” Casey said. I think he should be. A very talented young man. I hope our record doesn’t hurt him in any way, but he deserves it from a talent standpoint.”
Contact Omari Sankofa II at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.