Detroit Tigers’ Akil Baddoo an omen for draft luck change for Lions, Pistons, Red Wings?

Detroit Free Press

Akil Baddoo’s debut would be a great story even if the Detroit Tigers were the defending champs and the other big four teams here had made recent deep playoff runs, too. Not many longshot prospects hit the first big-league pitch they ever see over the fence and follow that up with a grand slam and a walk-off single.

Heck, not many top draft picks walk onto the major league stage that way, either.

MORE FROM WINDSOR: Akil Baddoo, Casey Mize giving starved fan base something to believe in

It’s part of the reason we celebrated Baddoo’s dramatic entrance onto Detroit’s sporting scene. Yet the buzz he created says something about the state of fandom around here as well.

We are starved. For a little electricity. For more giddy. For more high-voltage youngsters to suit up for the Pistons and Red Wings and Lions.

I have no idea where Baddoo’s career goes from here. He could hit the rest of the summer or stop hitting next week. Baseball is unpredictably cruel that way, and the hardest to predict future success.

But as the Lions prepare for the NFL draft and the Pistons and Wings wind down their seasons — each have roughly a month left — Baddoo’s leap into our consciousness is a reminder of what we’ve been missing for a while.

Not that you needed one.

No, what you really need is some luck. And by you, I mean the front offices rebuilding our teams, in the draft lottery for the Wings and Pistons, in talent observation for the Lions.

The Lions’ regime gets the first crack in less than three weeks. The team may or may not need a quarterback. What’s indisputable, though, is that they need playmakers. Or difference-makers. And if general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell find one on their first swing?

Well, it’s about time, no?

Luck is the way of the world even more in the NBA and NHL, where the worst teams don’t just have to study prospects as they do in the NFL, but study them and then get a shot at them only after going through a lottery.

Entering Thursday, the Pistons had the third-worst record in the NBA, which would give them a 14% chance of winning the top pick. Then again, does it matter?

Pistons fans would say no. Except that maybe this is finally the year where the team actually moves up in the lottery. It’s never happened … well, not technically.

The Memphis Grizzlies moved up three spots to the No. 2 spot in the 2003 lottery. The Pistons owned that pick. We don’t need to revisit what happened.

So, yeah, a team needs a little luck picking, too. But more luck in getting the pick.

Most draft analysts consider this a five-player draft at the top. That isn’t to say there won’t be future stars later in the draft.

But wouldn’t Cade Cunningham look dashing in a Pistons jersey? Or Jalen Suggs? Or Jalen Green? Or Evan Mobley?

Sure. Though Cunningham would look the best.

Here is a 6-foot-8 wing who handles the ball — and passes it — like a point guard while shooting like a two-guard. He plays at his own speed and, at 19, can already bend a court like few can.

The Pistons haven’t landed a player in the draft this talented since Grant Hill, though Cunningham has a different kind of game. As for Suggs? Well, he can make 40-footers at the buzzer and he can defend, and he can compete.

Voraciously.

He plays with a similar wattage to Cunningham. Either would give the franchise a jolt, and give general manager Troy Weaver a leading-man prospect to toss in with the rest of his promising young players.

That kind of it-factor prospect isn’t so easy to identity on the ice at the moment. The pandemic has shut down or delayed various leagues around the world and combined with the lack of travel, have made scouting nearly impossible.

Ask NHL draft analysts about the consensus No. 1 prospect this year and you’ll get five different answers. This hasn’t been the case lately, when the team that won the lottery could reasonably assume it was getting a crack at a transcendent player.

Like last year, when Alexis Lefrenière was everyone’s top choice. The Rangers left wing hasn’t lit up the league just yet, but it’s early and he’s playing for a middling team.

Still, you’d rather have him on your roster than not. And if the Wings had been luckier in the lottery, they would’ve been the franchise trying to unlock his talent.

Instead, as you well recall, the Wings’ league-worst record — by a mile — netted them the fourth pick in the lottery, which was the third time in recent years they were bumped down relative to their record.

And while perhaps this is the year where it won’t matter as much if the Wings don’t win the top spot, they’d still rather be the ones taking the swing and betting on their own ability to scout. For that to happen, they’ll have to buck Detroit’s poor lottery luck.

Maybe it’s time that’ll happen. Maybe for both the Wings and the Pistons. Maybe the lottery is ready to bequeath its annual chance at hope to a sporting scene that hasn’t had much of it.

The odds have got to break at some point, right?

Maybe Baddoo is the sign that they will, that if a Rule 5 draft pick can step to the plate and plop the first thing he sees for an opposite-field homer then the Pistons and Wings and Lions can land someone the next few months who will make similar debuts.

Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or swindsor@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.

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