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The Future of Detroit Sports: A Rebuilding City
By: Jake Lofgren
As it stands, Detroit is home to potentially the worst sports city in the United States. Now there are certainly a few others that come to mind, but in terms of a place that is home to all four major U.S. sports, I don't think there is any other city that comes close.
So, here is a quick rundown of every Detroit team's most recent history:
Last season, the Lions got everyone's hopes up again by starting the season 3-0-1, only to end up losing the next 12 games. They finished the year with the third-worst record in the NFL. This season the Lions have started 3-3 and look destined for the same failure.
The Red Wings finished the season 17-49-5 with 39 points. The next closest team was Ottawa, who had 62 points, which is a 23 point gap between just the two worst teams.
The Tigers won 47 games out of their 162 game season, which ended up making them the worst team in baseball last year. The Tigers were at least watchable this season but still ended up on the bottom of the division with a 23-35 record.
The Pistons finished the season with a record of 20-46, which makes them the fifth-worst team this NBA season. Pistons also traded Drummond for a bag of chips, meaning another rebuild is inevitable.
So as it stands, the Detroit fanbase has no team to cheer for that is even challenging a playoff spot, let alone a championship. It means that the next few years of Detroit sports will be full of memes and disappointment. But this article won't be depressing about how bad the city of Detroit is at sports; this article should discuss how the direction of this city is a positive one.
Fortunately for Detroit, American sports do not function in the same way as European soccer leagues do, where the worst teams get relegated to an entirely new division. American sports all work in systems that reward teams for losing games. The worst teams in the league are always rewarded each year with the earliest picks in their respective drafts, which in theory, should give them the best opportunity to pick the next best young prospects. It allows teams to go through periods where they are in no hurry to win games and just simply trying to get better picks to get higher-level talent.
Just look at two of the best and most talented teams in American sports, the Houston Astros and Milwaukee Bucks, as an example. Just 6-8 years ago, both of these teams were two of the worst teams in their respective leagues. From 2011-2013 the Astros lost 100 or more games for three seasons straight. In 2013 the Bucks had the worst record in the entire NBA, winning only 15 games. Ignoring the cheating scandal, just seven years later, we have seen the Astros accomplish three consecutive 100 win seasons, including two trips to the World Series, and the Bucks have had the best record in the NBA for two consecutive years.
Now both teams certainly got a little lucky on the way to this success. The Astros traded for someone as talented as Verlander and the Bucks struck gold when they drafted Giannis, but both teams built their core without blockbuster moves. In fact, five of the six worst teams during the 2013-14 NBA season were the Bucks, 76ers, Celtics, Lakers, and Jazz. Six seasons later and we now see all of these teams as playoff contenders. Although basketball is a much easier sport to rebuild quickly in, this shows how the long-run transition to success can actually be losing.
So, now let's take a deeper look at every Detroit team and some positives that they can continue to build upon:
To be honest with everyone, the Lions have never shown any promise to be good. But there are still a few encouraging things concerning the current situation.
The Lions are constantly cycling between coaches, which says more about the front office and ownership than it does the coaches in charge. After a promising start to the season only to be followed by a 12 game losing streak, the front office decided to trade a quality veteran and leader in Quandre Diggs for a 5th round pick. So, there is no real indication of the direction this team is heading. The Lions have one of the more talented quarterbacks in the league in Matthew Stafford but have failed to put a competent team around him. Losing Slay hurts, but adding a new high-level cornerback in Okudah who is still a great draft choice despite early season struggle. His struggles have more to do with a lack of preseason touches and as the season has went on, he has shown improvements game to game. Overall the Lions had a good draft.
Now fans are rightfully calling for Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn to be fired, but let's be real, nothing will change unless the ownership changes too. Last season still feels like it should've gone a whole lot differently, and now fans are even wishing we were still in the Jim Caldwell era, which only means that Lions fans can continue saying that "there's always next season."
Well, they finally did it. The Pistons are finally deciding to rebuild. The years of being too good to tank and too bad to win should finally be behind the Pistons. For the first time in years, the Pistons can build around younger players and cap flexibility. It will take some time, but the Pistons are finally on track to build a successful team in the modern-day NBA.
I get that it is easy for Pistons fans to get upset about the Drummond trade. The Pistons decided to deal their franchise player and multiple time all-star for two expiring contracts and a second-round draft pick while sending him to a rival in Cleveland. Which, of course, sounds like a horrible trade, but it really had to happen. Completing that trade final showed which direction the Pistons were heading in. Clearly, teams around the league were uninterested in Drummond due to his contract expiring, and the debate about if a center like him really translates to winning in the modern NBA.
The Pistons continued their draft lottery tradition of horrible luck by dropping two spots down to the seventh pick. The Pistons are really in no position to draft based on fit and should take the best player available. The franchise could use a young point guard to build the rest of the team around. At this spot, the Pistons should be able to pick up one of either Killian Hayes or Tyrese Haliburton, who both look like they could be solid modern day guards with both height and athleticism.
Luke Kennard, Sekou Doumbouya, Christian Wood, and Bruce Brown have already established themselves as usable players for the Pistons. Maybe none of them will become superstar players, but they all look like they could play a role on a contending Pistons team in the future. The Pistons are also high on some unproven players like Louis King, Jordan Bone, and Deividas Sirvydis, too.
Now, of course, none of these prospects look like a Ja Morant or Zion, but you never know what some of these players could become with some playing time on a rebuilding team. The Pistons may never be a free agency destination, but they are in control of their draft picks going forward and could be in play for an all-star that demands a trade in a few years.
The Pistons have a brand new GM in Troy Weaver and should absolutely tank the next couple of seasons. It will be boring, but that is, unfortunately, what it takes for an organization like them to win.
Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings have continued their poor luck in the lottery by having the worst record in the league by far but only drawing the fourth pick. It makes it the fourth straight season that the Red Wings have fallen in the lottery.
The Red Wings became a bit like the San Antonio Spurs and became very attached to their playoff streak. The 2017 playoffs were the first playoffs since 1991 that didn't have the Red Wings in it. This streak was fun for fans as the team was always fun to watch and was very loyal to their players. The Red Wings struggled to let go of the Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg era, which had hindered their progress of going into a rebuild much earlier.
Though the Red Wings still do have some good young players and are a free-agent destination. Their captain and hometown hero, Dylan Larkin, is still only 24 years old and beyond ready to lead a winning team. Dennis Cholowski, Michael Rasmussen, Joe Veleno, Filip Zadina, and Moritz Seider are probably the Red Wings' best five prospects right now, and all have the potential to be solid Red Wings one day. The two wingers next to Larkin are Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha, who are still both under the age of 26.
Although, all hope of Red Wings fans lies in the hands of their legendary GM, Steve Yzerman. The last team Yzerman was GM at was the Tampa Bay Lightning, who most recently won the Stanley Cup. Yzerman helped to build a non-prevalent hockey franchise based in Florida to become a powerhouse. So, you would think he would be able to do the same in Hockeytown.
Last season the Tigers were one of the worst teams in the history of the league. This year they are at least watchable, but still bad. Fortunately, the Tigers are very close to bringing through a new generation of stars.
The Tigers have a great group of pitchers coming through with Matt Manning, Alex Faedo, and Tarik Skubal. The gem in that group is Casey Mize. Regarded as one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, Mize was the first overall pick back in 2018 and has already made his MLB debut. His debut season did not go as planned, but the unorthodox schedule and the uncertain state of baseball likely played a role in his struggles. Never forget that Greg Maddux started his hall-of-fame career with an awful first full season that saw him go 6 and 14 with an ERA of 5.61. Not saying Mize will turn into one of the best pitchers in MLB history, but a rookie season should not speak on his potential to develop into an elite pitcher.
For the Tigers, pitching wins championships and, it was the main reason they failed just a few seasons ago. If these pitchers can live up to their potential, it will be up to the front office to spend on a few good bats to support them.
The Tigers already have some quality prospects in the majors like Isaac Paredes, Daz Cameron, and Jake Rogers, but the two biggest ones are their most recent top draft choices. Those two are Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene. Torkelson was the first overall choice in the 2020 draft and is deemed to be a high riser that could be in the majors as soon as next season. Greene is not too far behind and could join Torkelson in the majors a short time after. These two have the potential to be the new big-name hitter that the Tigers need to build around. Miguel Cabrera's prime has passed, and even though his contract doesn't expire until 2023, these two will be ready to take over once he goes.
Tigers fans need to be patient because these prospects should be a good enough core to be a winning baseball team, then the pressure will be on the front office to spend money wisely.
Although this is a very tough time to be a Detroit Sports fan, all four teams are hitting their rebuilds at the same time, which could lead to an era where these teams compete for their respective championships at the same time. So, the state of Detroit sports might currently be depressing, but it is not like these teams (besides the Lions) haven't experienced eras of success before, and they can reach those levels again.
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