We’re only a couple days away from 2019, and this time of the year often leads to thoughts of the future.
With that in mind, here is today’s question: Which of the six major sports franchises in town — Vikings, Twins, Wolves, Lynx, Wild and United — is most likely to win Minnesota’s next pro championship?
First take: Michael Rand
Well, if we want to use the past as a predictor of the future, this is going to be a quick argument. The Lynx won four WNBA titles between 2011 and 2017. The rest of the group? No comment (though United did have success in a lower league before moving to Major League Soccer in 2017).
But the Lynx — even with Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles still playing prominent roles — are a franchise in transition after the retirement of Lindsay Whalen and have a core that is aging. The other five teams at least have realistic aspirations of making the postseason in the near-term.
So while I think the Lynx is the smartest answer, I don’t think it’s a slam dunk.
Columnist Chip Scoggins: For me, the answer is easy, too: the Lynx. That organization knows what it takes to win championships. Cheryl Reeve not only is an outstanding coach, but she’s also shown a willingness to be aggressive in constructing the roster as GM. And Maya Moore remains one of the top players in the WNBA.
I’d put the Vikings second, if Rick Spielman addresses the offensive line issues in a serious manner this offseason. I’m also curious to see how Minnesota United fares as it moves into a new stadium and whether that results in more willingness to spend big money to sign better talent.
Rand: I’m a little worried that the Vikings don’t have the right formula to win a Super Bowl. Their defense is getting older, and Kirk Cousins is not a top-tier quarterback.
My first pick behind the Lynx would be the Twins. They have a lot of high-end talent, and the AL Central could be in play in 2019 with Cleveland shedding talent.
I actually think any of these six teams could win a title in the next five years. Maybe let’s reframe the question: Which is the least likely?
Scoggins: The Timberwolves would be my pick for least likely. The trend of super teams in the NBA results in only a few teams that have a realistic chance to win a championship.
Karl-Anthony Towns is a franchise player, but teams need more than one foundational star to be considered a legitimate contender. The Wolves thought they were building that with Towns, Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins. That lasted one season.
Rand: If we’re talking very short-term, I think you’re right — and that data backs you up. ESPN’s Basketball Power Index gives the Wolves less than a 0.1 percent chance of winning the NBA title this season.
The Vikings? One percent chance to win the Super Bowl, per FiveThirtyEight.com. Twins? 100-to-1 odds at a Vegas sports book, so 1 percent. I can’t find any future odds yet for MLS and United in 2019.
The Lynx, by the way, have 14-to-1 odds to win it all in 2019 per the Vegas Insider future odds — just eighth best among the 12 WNBA teams.
Interestingly, Hockey Reference gives the Wild a 2.9 percent chance of winning the Stanley Cup this season. Maybe we overlooked the Wild in our “most likely” discussion?
Final word: Scoggins
That’s because we’ve seen the Wild flame out early in the playoffs too many times. The roster isn’t getting younger and questions remain about whether the team is built for a long playoff run.
But the NHL playoffs remain the most unpredictable because of hockey luck and randomness and the fact that a hot goalie can carry a team.
More Rand: startribune.com/RandBall
More North Score: startribune.com/NorthScore