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Michigan betting: How soon can downtrodden Pistons, Tigers or Red Wings turn things around?

Frank Schwab
·4-min read

When a city has four professional sports teams, usually at least one is competitive.

If the NBA team is down, the NHL team is in contention. The Major League Baseball team could be in last place, but the NFL team is in the playoffs.

Detroit is in a really, really bad place with its teams. And we’re not even talking about Michigan rewarding Jim Harbaugh with an extension. Each of Detroit’s four major pro teams is among the worst in its respective league.

The Detroit Pistons are tied for the longest odds to win the NBA championship at BetMGM at 500-to-1. The Detroit Red Wings are by far the longest shot to win the Stanley Cup at 100-to-1. There are four MLB teams with longer odds to win the World Series than the Detroit Tigers (80-to-1), so that’s something. And with next season’s Super Bowl odds out at BetMGM, the Detroit Lions are 75-to-1.

BetMGM has launched live sports betting in Michigan. It’ll be a challenge for Michigan fans to find a home team they are excited to bet on.

All Detroit teams are rebuilding

It’s not like Detroit’s teams have always been bad.

The Red Wings have mostly been good since the mid-1980s and won four Stanley Cups since then. The Pistons had the Bad Boys run and another title over the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004. The Tigers made the playoffs, and one World Series, four straight years in the 2010s.

The Lions have been perennially bad, but the rest of the sports teams in Detroit have at least taken turns being fun. It all fell apart at once, in a way you just don’t see for one city very often.

A good way of framing Detroit’s woes is by asking, who is the best pro athlete in Michigan? It might have been quarterback Matthew Stafford, but he was traded Saturday. Dylan Larkin is a good young player for the Red Wings but not a star yet. He scored just 19 goals last season. The Pistons are led in scoring by Jerami Grant, whose career average is less than 10 points per game. Behind Grant is Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin, who are well past their primes. Miguel Cabrera might be the only Tigers player a casual fan can name, and he has not had an All-Star season since 2016. Former first overall pick Casey Mize of the Tigers, with his 6.99 ERA in seven career games, is probably the best under-30 hope among the four teams.

Detroit’s success dried up in a hurry, and there’s no great sign of a quick turnaround.

Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin (23) is fouled by Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson (23) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin (23) is fouled by Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson (23) during the second half of a game on Jan. 8, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Which Detroit team will be the first to turn it around?

If you had to pick one team that will be the first to contend again, the smart money should be on the Red Wings. The core of the team is mostly in its 20s. There are a few highly touted prospects in the system, most notably wing Lucas Raymond, and the franchise has typically had a long-term plan. This seems like a temporary downturn after a long streak of success.

The Pistons are arguably in the worst shape, without one bankable young star, but all it takes is one great draft pick to turn things around. And the Pistons should have plenty of chances to be in the lottery before things turn around. Perhaps they get the first pick, draft Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham and he becomes an instant star they can build around. It can happen that fast.

The Tigers have some hope for the future. Corner infielder Spencer Torkelson, Mize, pitcher Matt Manning and outfielder Riley Greene are all on’s top 100 prospects list. They need those players to hit big. Detroit has posted four straight seasons of a winning percentage lower than .400, and it’s hard to get excited about any of their veterans. The Tigers need to hope all their young prospects pay off, and they keep drafting well. It will probably take a few years before all their exciting prospects emerge as major-league stars, if they do at all.

Professional sports teams go through ups and downs all the time. It’s just very rare for a city to have teams in all four major professional leagues be on a downswing at the same time. Based on where Detroit’s four teams are, it’s optimistic to think that any of them will be true contenders before 2024, at the earliest.

At least Detroit fans know it can’t get much worse.

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