Earlier this month, the St. Louis Blues and Toronto Raptors won their first NHL and NBA titles, respectively, and removed their names from the list of franchises without a championship trophy in their home office. So who could be the next team to do the same? Here are a few that I think could just pull of the feat …
n I’m going to go outside the norm with my first pick and look at the WNBA, which has had just eight different teams hoist the trophy in its 22-year existence. I think the Washington Mystics could be the ninth franchise to do so, and a former Western Pennsylvania prep star could be one of the driving forces behind that title.
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, who dominated the WPIAL during four years at Hopewell High School, took her talents to the University of Maryland where she put together a decorated career for the Terrapins that included seven All-America awards and three first-team All-Big Ten nods.
Her excellence with the Terps compelled the Mystics to take her with the sixth overall pick in the 2017 WNBA draft. Though she doesn’t have a start to her credit this season, Walker-Kimbrough has appeared in all 10 games for the Mystics and is averaging 8.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
The Mystics also have one of the league’s biggest stars on their roster in Elena Delle Donne. The team boasts tremendous scoring balance which manifests itself with six players averaging between 9.9 and 16.4 points per contest. They are also shooting an impressive 86.8% from the free throw line, which is more than 13% higher than their opponents.
Entering this past Tuesday, Washington boasted the second-best record in the league (7-3) after going 22-12 in 2018.
n Seven teams in Major League Baseball are without a title. I think one of them could end the drought this year or next.
The Tampa Bay Rays continue to be one of the best organizations with the worst fans in all of professional sports. Despite boasting a 45-33 record and the best pitching staff in the American League, Tampa is only pulling in 14,545 fans per game. Those numbers are the primary reasons that rumors concerning a split season in Montreal have bubbled up to the surface.
Tampa looks to be the unquestioned winner of the Chris Archer trade of 2018, as Austin Meadows bats .304 with 12 home runs, 41 RBIs and eight stolen bases. Tyler Glasnow was dominating on the mound before an injury sent him to the IL. However, he is due back after the All-Star Break. Prior to straining a muscle in his forearm, Glasnow was 6-1 in eight starts with 1.86 ERA, a 2.02 opposing batting average, 55 strikeouts and nine walks over eight starts.
Imagine how good this pitching staff will be if ace Blake Snell ever gets back on track.
However, there are two major roadblocks in Tampa’s road to the top: the Yankees and the Red Sox. With both teams joining the Rays in the American League East, the Florida-based franchise may have to aim for a wild card slot to get into the postseason and then rely on its enviable pitching depth to get past the opposition with richer rosters.
n There are 12 teams that have never tasted Super Bowl victory in the NFL. Many thought the Los Angeles Chargers had a chance to do so last year and could this season with Kansas City dealing with its share of offseason drama and the Patriots continuing to age, albeit in an unbelievably slow fashion.
The Cleveland Browns have never been to a Super Bowl, but their bandwagon is filling up quickly as perhaps the league’s most talked about franchise. While I think the offense could be pretty much unstoppable this year or next, defensive shortcomings will keep them from reaching the top of the NFL mountain.
Ultimately, I think the Chargers offensive/defensive balance makes them a strong candidate to win in 2020. The Houston Texans, Carolina Panthers, Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons all have good things going for them, but lack enough overall talent to join the winners’ club.