As the MLB schedule drew closer and closer to the (symbolic) halfway point, I’m sure a bunch of players — at least those not selected to be an All-Star — were looking forward to the multi-day break, almost like a mini-Spring Break except instead of kegs and house music raves this one would be filled with ice baths, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation treatments, and sleep. So much sleep.
And the players weren’t the only ones dreaming of sleep. I needed a break, too. So I flew to the mountains of Salt Lake City, Utah. A friend spends time there and swears by the scenery as a source of inspiration and relaxation, so why not, I thought.
As I soaked in the cool mornings and unreal sunsets over mountain ranges, I found my mind wandering to the future, specifically, the future of sports in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex (hereafter referred to as the “Metroplex” and/or “the ‘Plex”). Look, I know you’re probably thinking who goes on vacation to relax and thinks about local sports? I do. It doesn’t stress me, if anything it helps me to relax and focus so that’s my story and I’m 100% sticking to it.
Now’s a good time to note that I was only thinking about the future of the ‘Plex’s MLB, NBA, and NFL teams. I didn’t include the NHL, WNBA, and MLS teams because I’m not anywhere close to being well-versed on those teams/sports. I support the Stars, the Wings, and FC Dallas but when it comes to talkin’ sports, I tend to stay in my lane — so no disrespect to those teams, ok?
Back to the story at hand. As I took in the scenery at an elevation of 7,000 feet, my mind replayed the last couple of seasons for the Rangers, Mavericks, and Cowboys. It’s been a shade over 7-years since a Metroplex team won a championship (shoutout the Mavericks) and while there have been a couple of promising runs, the ‘Plex has come up short time and again.
One question kept bouncing around in my head as I hiked up and down the trails at elevation, so much so that I legitimately wondered if this was a symptom of altitude sickness: are the future stars of championship teams here now?
Specifically, I thought about — in my mind — the Top 3 names from each team to see if they are indeed part of the DNA of future championship squads or are just here, treading water.
QB Dak Prescott (24-years-old) - Experience: 2 years. 95.8 passer rating, 6,991 pass yards, 45-17 TD-INT, 639 rush yards, 12 rushing TD. A solid performer, promising aesthetics but only time will tell.
RB Ezekiel Elliott (22-years-old) - Experience: 2 years. 2,614 rush yards, 4.6 yards/carry, 22 rushing TD, 58 receptions, 632 receiving yards, 3 receiving TD. Very reliable, consistent performer but carries off-field issues.
DE DeMarcus “Tank” Lawrence (26-years-old) - Experience: 4 years. 133 total tackles, 23.5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries. High-motor athlete who has one primary directive: sack the quarterback. To this end, Tank has gone from single-digit sacks to 14.5 in 2017. Health and consistency will tell the tale.
Overall Cowboys look: Solely based on these three names, the Cowboys could very well have 3 vital cogs in a future championship machine.
PG Dennis Smith Jr. (20-years-old) - Experience: 1 year. 29.7 minutes/game, 15.2 points/game, 3.8 rebounds/game, 5.2 assists/game, 400 wows/game from crowd. After only one season we’ve seen DSJ to be a super fast, super versatile, super exciting finisher. His missed dunks are SportsCenter-worthy.
SF Harrison Barnes (26-years-old) - Experience: 6 years. 30.4 minutes/game, 13.1 points/game, 4.9 rebounds/game, 1.5 assists/game, 21.10 NBA Rating. Barnes came to prominence during the 2015 NBA Playoffs as a member of The Warriors™ (read this part with reverence), specifically against Memphis where he averaged 12.8 points/game and shot almost 55% from the field. Barnes subsequently helped The Warriors™ win a championship. In 2016, Barnes signed a 4-year, $94 million max deal much to the consternation of a large swath of Mavericks fans. For better or worse, Barnes is here and I think he can be a part of future success, especially if that 2015 playoffs tenacity can become a consistent part of his game.
SG Luka Doncic (19-years-old) - Experience: N/A. The Mavericks’ front office managed to secure Doncic in the 2018 NBA Draft (by way of a trade with Atlanta). Quite frankly, this front office needed this, if anything to serve as a confidence booster in their draft department as a supplement to the home run they hit with DSJ the year before. Luka dominated EuroLeague so the hope is that he can translate that success in the NBA, much like the other European kid acquired 20-years-ago did for the franchise (hope it doesn’t take so long with Luka, though).
Overall Mavericks look: Solely based on these three names, the Mavericks are poised to make some serious noise soon. The hope is that part of this noise is the crowd screaming in adoration at another Barnes-to-Luka-to-DSJ game-winning rim finish as the buzzer winds down in an NBA championship game.
SS Elvis Andrus (29-years-old) - Experience: 10 years. 1,495 hits, .276/.335/.371 slash line, .706 OPS, 57 home runs, 533 RBI, 268 stolen bases, .973 fielding percentage. Elvis may not be considered “young” by experience but to me he’s a player that’s just discovering his power (20 home runs in 2017, almost as many home runs as his previous four seasons combined). I definitely think a championship run is only viable with his offensive and defensive production.
P Keone Kela (25-years-old) - Experience: 4 years. 3.42 ERA, 166.0 innings pitched, 26 saves, 204 strikeouts, 63 walks issued, 1.133 WHIP, 3.3 WAR. First off, I’m listing Keone Kela here because if I don’t I run the risk of having to explain to him (face-to-face) why I didn’t and that’s not an ideal situation to be in, so here we are. Aside from the threat of a throat-punch as a motivating factor, Keone — in my opinion — deserves to be here. He’s a strong, young pitcher that’s been asked to deliver in various roles out of the bullpen and he has risen to the occasion. I think the Rangers have developed a closer, something this franchise values in its quest to finally win it all.
IF/C Isiah Kiner-Falefa (23-years-old) - Experience: 1 year. 59 hits, .251/.322/.349 slash line, .671 OPS, 2 home runs, 24 RBI, 7 stolen bases, .971 fielding percentage. The Rangers thought they found a splendid white sapphire (a stone known for its durability) in IKF but somebody forgot to forward that message to IKF. In a season rife with injuries and defensive miscues, IKF has risen up to be a surprising, consistent and super versatile contributor. The comparisons to Michael Young are there and that’s really high praise for a player especially in year one. I really think IKF will be a part of a championship Rangers team, one that will get several diamonds on their championship rings but the biggest diamond is here right now, albeit a bit of a diamond in the rough.
Overall Rangers look: Solely based on these three names, the Rangers have a fighting chance to make a run at a championship, although the probability is only in the 40-50% range.
So that’s it. Besides traversing the mountain ranges of Utah and indulging in some magnificent farm-to-table cuisine, this is what I had on my mind. The future is unwritten but maybe, just maybe, these names are the ink waiting for the right pen to write a championship tale.