Home to over 10 sports teams across the four major leagues in the United States, Florida is approaching a critical year dictating its future in sports. With regular seasons, postseasons, and off-seasons heating up, let’s dive into some of the Sunshine State’s most exciting news in sports.
NBA – Orlando Magic
As a result of a shift to younger stars, the Orlando Magic’s season ended sooner than fans hoped. Orlando’s reigning #1 overall draft pick, Paolo Banchero, led the way for the Magic his rookie season. Still, it’s time for the executives to take over for the 2023 NBA Draft.
Orlando drafted Arkansas freshman Anthony Black with the 6th overall pick. Black provides the Magic elite perimeter defense at the guard position and an ability to contribute offensively across the board.
With the 11th pick, the Magic drafted Michigan freshman Jett Howard. Howard’s efficiency from the 3-point line and free throw line are strong suits, alongside his scoring potential in a growing Orlando offense.
NBA – Miami Heat
Back in February, Heat fans were disappointed with their front desk after an unimpactful trade deadline. Against all odds, however, Miami had a historic postseason run as the second 8th seed to make the Finals in the history of the NBA. Consequently, Miami is looking to make some off-season changes to its roster.
After failing to secure Bradley Beal, Phoenix’s newest acquisition, Miami’s focus shifted to Portland’s star point guard Damian Lillard. Nevertheless, ESPN Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski recently tweeted that the Portland Trail Blazers have shut down trade talks for Lillard, saying, “Dame wants to stay in Portland.” Having drafted Scoot Henderson 3rd in last night’s draft, however, the Blazers could have new plans regarding its future with Lillard.
The situation worsens for Heat fans as they have to cope with being stripped of two all-star guards and additional challenges. Since Miami’s front office failed to make timely roster changes, its fans watched as multiple teams, such as Boston, Memphis, and Golden State, made off-season improvements.
NCAA – Florida Atlantic & Miami
March Madness is known for upsets and Cinderella stories, with this year being no exception. Two Florida teams survived the madness and made it to the Final Four: San Diego State, Connecticut, Florida Atlantic, and Miami.
Unfortunately, UConn took care of Miami with a final score of 72-59 to advance to the championship and eventually win the championship. Nevertheless, this wasn’t even the most heartbreaking moment for Floridians in the tournament. San Diego State’s Lamont Butler sunk a game-winning buzzer beater to send FAU home in a 72-71 loss.
Regardless, a handful of college players from Florida took the next step and joined the NBA last night. Overtime Elite’s Amen and Ausar Thompson were drafted 4th to Houston and 5th to Detroit, respectively, as well as UCF’s Taylor Hendricks going 9th to the Jazz.
MLB – Miami Marlins
Less than 10 games away from the #1 overall Tampa Bay Rays, the Marlins have taken the league by storm. Despite their impressive records in both home and away games, Miami has a concerning negative point differential. It is the lowest among the top 15 teams and stands out as the only team in the top 12 with a point differential below zero.
What’s keeping the Marlins afloat, however, is its phenomenal hitting. Designated hitter Jorge Soler leads the Marlins in total home runs and is third in the MLB in total home runs behind Shohei Ohtani and Pete Alonso. Additionally, Luis Arraez is having a sensational offensive season, leading the MLB in total hits and batting average by more than five percent over the second-best.
MLB – Tampa Bay Rays
Despite struggling in away games, Tampa Bay is the only team with less than 12 home game losses. It is also one of only three teams with a point differential above 100 and the only team alongside Texas with a point differential above 140.
Tampa Bay’s success has resulted from quality team batting and Shane McClanahan’s efficient pitching. The Rays are top five in batting average and total hits, second in total home runs, RBI, and ERA, and lead in stolen bases and pitching wins. Furthermore, McClanahan leads the MLB in total wins and ERA and leads the team in strikeouts.
NFL – Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins had a beautiful roster on paper last season, but injuries plagued the team’s success. In addition to a promising performance against the conference champion Buffalo Bills in the playoffs, Miami’s front office sought to continue its improvement throughout the off-season.
The Dolphins have had arguably the best off-season in the NFL, resulting from one blockbuster trade that seemed one-sided. Miami sent tight end Hunter Long and its 2023 third-round pick (77th overall) to the L.A. Rams for Jalen Ramsey, one the NFL’s most decorated and feared cornerbacks.
Alongside its elite offense led by Tyreek Hill, Tua Tagovailoa, and Jaylen Waddle, Ramsey’s defensive boost makes the Dolphins a scary team going forward.
NHL – Florida Panthers
Something in Florida’s water makes its teams mediocre in the regular season and unstoppable in the postseason. With no players in the top five of any major offensive or defensive stat in the regular season, the Panthers’ playoff run as the 8th seed might have been more impressive than the Heat’s.
Florida’s electric offense stunned the Bruins’ historic season in seven games, took care of the Maple Leafs in five games, and swept the Hurricanes despite their social media trash talk. Unfortunately, the Vegas Golden Knights scored an average of 5.2 goals/game, astonishingly exposing the Panthers’ defense.
Following its historic Finals run, the Panthers need a productive off-season to ensure victory next season.
MLS – Inter Miami
We love our hometown Orlando City Soccer, but this year’s MLS news goes to Inter Miami. Sitting at rock bottom in the Eastern Conference, the only way for Miami to go was up. Other teams would play through younger players or prepare for the draft. Still, Inter Miami signed Lionel Messi for a contract paying him over $50 million annually.
Inter Miami’s Instagram following sat at 1 million before Messi’s signing. Following the news, it’s now sitting at more than 8 million followers: more than any NFL, MLB, and NHL team. The only teams with more followers than Inter Miami are the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors.
Fans attending Inter Miami’s match against Austin FC on July 1 can purchase tickets as low as $35 and up to about $190 on Ticketmaster. The next game at DRV PNK Stadium on July 21, Messi’s debut, has standing tickets priced at over $1,200, and seats range from $2,250 to over $5,700.
Messi’s world-class scoring and playmaking will likely improve Inter Miami’s record. Still, for now, its fans are more concerned with seeing the Argentine phenom in pink and white.
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