Let’s examine the current state of major sports in our town. These are my opinions. I would be greatly interested in how you see things so please add yours.
Grading is on a scale from the team most likely to be the first since the 1995 Braves to win a major championship:
- Atlanta United (Strong to Very Strong). United almost made a serious run at the MLS Cup in its inaugural season. Additions to the lineup such as Darlington Nagbe (and Ezequiel Barco if he is as good ad advertised) make the club even more of a threat to win the title right now. A year under their belts to get to know the system and United might just bring home a trophy this season.
- Falcons (Strong). The Falcons are still, very much, in that window. Making the proper adjustments in the offseason will (of course) be critical, but a slightly easier schedule (on paper) and a clearer understanding of what the offense must do — added to a young and growing defense — makes the Falcons favorites to make the postseason again next year.
- College Football (Very Good to Strong). UGA is primed to go on a lengthy run of winning seasons. Georgia State grew into a bowl team last year. Kennesaw State was a play or two from the national Final Four. Now Tech? Tech does what it does, which is to say this season will probably be a solid one with more experience in the backfield and adjustments on defense. College football in Atlanta is solid at the moment.
- Hawks (Good). The young core shows serious promise. Add to that three first-round picks (possibly including the No. 1 overall) and an owner & GM committed to building a winner might well mean the Hawks are a factor in the East by 2020. If they make a big splash in free agency after the 2018-19 season ends, we could see a rapid rise.
- Braves (Fair to Good). Yes I am bullish on the young talent, but it is very young. Add the new GM has to deal with the fallout of the penalties from the outrageous scandal the previous GM was guilty of and an ownership that is, at the moment, tight with cash in free agency. This all means the Braves are growing, but slowly. Still the future outlook is bright.
- Men’s College Basketball (Poor to Fair). There is no excuse for the current status of men’s college hoops in the state. Both UGA and Tech have underachieved long enough. Kennesaw State’s men’s program is a shambles leaving Ron Hunter’s GSU Panthers to carry the weight. There is a boatload of prep hoops talent in Atlanta alone that one program ought to be making the Tournament every year. Most of that pressure falls on the shoulders of Tech head coach Josh Pastner.
And those are my rankings and thoughts… again, please give me yours.