With Halloween just around the corner, the Daily Campus Sports department has been thinking about which teams around professional sports have the potential to be scary good in the next few years. There’s a lot of young and talented teams to consider across the four major sports, so the DC sports staff will have a lot to talk about in this week’s spooky edition of the Roundtable.
I’m going to have to put my money on the Los Angeles Rams. This team has all the makings of a long term threat to make a run. They’re arguably the second best team in the NFC right now, but Goff and Gurley are still young with a rookie head coach. They’re doing a lot right already, but they’re not quite ready to make a run just yet. Over the next two to three years, I think we’re going to see Goff and Gurley validate the hype they’ve built up this year and take over the NFC West. The best part is, I haven’t even gotten to their defense yet. Aaron Donald is an anchor on a talented defensive line and Wade Phillips’ defensive magic has already been working wonders through seven weeks. This team is here now, and they’re here to compete for the next few years.
After years of tanking, “The Process” is now in its next stage. The Sixers’ core of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz can make Philly a powerhouse down the line. This trio still has a lot to prove as all have been plagued by injuries in their young careers. Embiid and Simmons have been very promising in the little time they have played and the jury is still out on Fultz. But if these three, along with Dario Saric and Robert Covington, stick around, Philly will run the soon to be LeBron-less Eastern Conference.
The Milwaukee Bucks are going to be scary good, because Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to be scary good. Have you watched them this year? It’s still super early, but he’s the clear MVP candidate. He’s still only 22 years old and has made massive leaps over the last couple of years. He still doesn’t have a jump shot in his arsenal. If he can improve to a Kawhi Leonard level, roughly 38 percent from three, then he’s simply unguardable. Even if he doesn’t, he can still dominate. Again, just look at this year. Just space the floor with shooters and suddenly the defensive conundrum teams will face in planning for the Bucks will approach the Warriors. The Bucks are already doing a decent job of it this year, but if they can find truly elite shooters the whole league is going to be scared. In no other sport is individual star power as correlated to team success than the NBA, and no other player appears to have a brighter future than the Greek Freak. Watch out.
You could make a case for any number of NBA teams, but I’m going to go with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Karl-Anthony Towns is already scary good at 21 years old, and he’s only getting better. Not to mention another first overall pick in 22 year old Andrew Wiggins who just signed a five-year, $146 million contract extension. This team was already set up for the long haul. So what do they go do this summer? Land Jimmy Butler, a three time All-Star, to add veteran leadership to this up and coming Wolves team. Tom Thibodeau is just the guy to develop this squad too. He’s a disciplinarian and big on fundamentals. Everyone seems to be talking about the process in Philadelphia, but the plans are coming together quite nicely up in Minnesota as well.
The Houston Texans drafted Deshaun Watson with the 12th overall pick this past April hoping that one day down the line, he could be that corner stone the team has been searching for. Watson’s opportunity came sooner than expected and he is already breaking records. The rookie has a solid receiving core at his disposal, consisting of Will Fuller V and DeAndre Hopkins, and a good running back in Lamar Miller to help the offense move the ball. The defense has an intriguing core anchored by JJ Watt. Jadeveon Clowney, Brian Cushing and Duane Brown fill out a unit that can produce multiple turnovers in a single game. The future lies in Watson’s hands. His development is key for any success. Injuries have battered Houston for some time now so getting everybody on the field at once might be the most difficult parts of building a winning culture. Factor in a terrible division, and this team certainly has the ability to compete for championships in the near future.
There are a handful of NBA teams in the Western Conference that are just one roster piece away from being serious title contenders, yet their chances of being able to hang with the likes of the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, and Oklahoma City Thunder are slim. For that reason, my dark horse squad is the Miami Heat. After going 11-30 in the first half of the 2016-17 season, the Heat won 30 of their final 41 games, including a 13 game win streak at one point. They missed out on the playoffs by a single game. If near-all-star level point guard Goran Dragic and 7-foot beast Hassan Whiteside can maintain their dominance, the Heat should be able to replicate their 2017 success. The key is for role players such as Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson to continue to develop and mesh. The Heat may be no better than middle-of-the-pack Western Conference squads like the Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans or Utah Jazz, but they stand a better chance of making a deep playoff run considering they play in the much weaker Eastern Conference.
I’m going to have to go with my team, the New York Mets. Now hear me out, they have a great young core of players, including Michael Conforto, Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario, and star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes signed through the 2020 season. They also have some good borderline starters such as Wilmer Flores and T.J. Rivera who can potentially blossom into everyday players. They also have a possibly tremendous pitching staff which includes Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, provided they stay healthy.
No one can deny that the biggest problem with the Mets these past few years has been the injury woes, but I truly believe that those days are behind them. This offseason, the Mets finally fired trainer Ray Ramirez, who did a worse job of taking care of the Mets players than Phil Jackson did as president of the Knicks. The Mets have also hired a new manager, Mickey Callaway, who is one of the youngest in the game at 42 years old. As a former pitching coach, Callaway knows how to deal with pitchers. For a team that had its staff riddled with injuries, Callaway is a great addition. They just need a few more pieces (please Sandy go after Moustakas), and if they get them, the Mets could be scary good for years to come.
As much as it hurts to say this as a Mets fan, the Yankees are poised to be really good for a long time. They have a core of very young and talented players that carried them all the way to the ALCS this year. Aaron Judge is a straight up freak of nature at 25 years old and is a part of a terrorizing home run hitting tandem with catcher Gary Sanchez. Didi Gregorius proved himself as a top-tier everyday shortstop this year and Greg Bird’s postseason shows lots of promise in his game. Their pitching is top-notch too, lead by 23-year-old ace Luis Severino and a dominant bullpen that includes Aroldis Chapman, Tommy Kahnle and Dellin Betances. They even have talented youth who don’t play everyday with Clint Frazier, Ronald Torreyes and eventually Gleyber Torres. The Yankees may have been good this year, and I don’t think they’re going away anytime soon.
It’s scary to think that a guy who looks like an average Joe (albeit 6’10) and used to drink three two-liter soda bottles a day could terrorize a league made up of the best athletes in the world, but that’s exactly what Nikola Jokic intends to do. The Joker, the Denver Nuggets Serbian center, already strikes fear into the hearts of opposing coaches as they try to game plan against his pure unselfishness and the way it infects the rest of his team.
At only 22 years old, Jokic is already the best passing big man in the league right now and by the end of his career could go down as the best passing center ever. Along with him, the Nuggets have 20-year-old skilled scorer and lottery pick guard Jamal Murray, all-star power forward and do-it-all player who grinds his heart out on defense Paul Millsap, the uber-athletic Will “The Thrill” Barton and a true 3-and-D player in Gary Harris. They also have other guys like former lottery pick Emmanuel Mudiay and “The Manimal” Kenneth Faried, who could both be used as trade chips in the hopes of luring another big time player to the Mile High City.
This Nuggets team has seven players on the roster younger than 25 years old, so they’re primed to grow together and knock off the Warriors once they either age a little more or have to change the team due to financial situations. Led by their young passing maestro, Denver is a team on the rise and will be floating to the top of the league faster than if Pennywise the Dancing Clown helped them himself.