We’ve already seen major sporting events in 2020 like the College Football Playoff and the Super Bowl, but aside from football, we still have a year full of championships to win in every sport, at every level. This week, I will make my predictions for the winners of the most high-profile remaining American sporting events this year — except for the upcoming March Madness, which I’ll dive into deeper in a couple of weeks.
The Masters: Justin Thomas
Thomas is coming off a phenomenal season, during which he placed third in the FedEx Cup standings. At 26 years old, Thomas is nearing the prime of his career, so I expect him to have another big season on tour in 2020.
Thomas has only one major win under his belt: the 2017 PGA Championship. He had historically good — not great — outings at all majors, but he has seen steady improvement in the standings each year.
Thomas is currently first in the FedEx Cup standings, first in top-10 finishes and fourth in scoring average. Stats like these allude to my prediction that this is the year Thomas takes his game to the next level and finally pulls out another major win.
With Tiger Woods playing inconsistently and Brooks Koepka returning from injury, I think Thomas has a prime opportunity to steal the Masters early in the PGA season.
Stanley Cup: Vegas Golden Knights
Founded just a couple of seasons ago, the Golden Knights have quickly emerged as one of the NHL’s most exciting teams. The Golden Knights started out their first season with a bang by making it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Last year, they had another solid season where they made the playoffs but were quickly eliminated by the San Jose Sharks.
Vegas built a team based on all-around decent players who were underrated or didn’t quite fit in with their past clubs. Collectively, those players created a formidable contender.
This year, the Golden Knights are once again sitting atop the Pacific Division thanks to their offensive firepower from players like wingers Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty, and they are currently on a six-game win streak.
Defensively, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has been outstanding. Other than him, however, stopping the puck has been an area of concern for the team. The Golden Knights might not have the most stacked team on paper compared to teams like the Boston Bruins or the Washington Capitals, but they will have to find ways to overcome those giants in the playoffs, and I believe they will.
NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have been Finals contenders since the day they acquired Anthony Davis, and so far, the Lake Show has lived up to the hype. With the second-best record in the league, the Lakers have looked formidable thanks to the duo of Davis and LeBron James, both of whom have put up highly impressive stats this season.
The one major area of concern will be L.A.’s role players: The Lakers need players like guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso and Danny Green and forward JaVale McGee to play at an extremely high level to provide the necessary support for Davis and James.
On paper, the Lakers have everything they need to win a title. They have superstars, shooters, hustlers, rebounders and defensive stoppers. But in reality, it seems like the team has relied a little too much on star duo.
In addition, the Lakers will have to deal with other stacked rosters like the hometown rival Los Angeles Clippers, led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, as well as the Milwaukee Bucks, who have the NBA’s best record.
At the end of the day, however, I think LeBron and his crew will overcome those obstacles and prove they are the best team in the league come June.
World Series: Atlanta Braves
The Braves suffered through the rebuilding process for several years, but recently, the team has taken major strides. Last season, the Braves finished first in the National League East in front of the eventual World Series winners, the Washington Nationals, but they made a quick playoff exit after losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series.
One key player that has contributed to the Braves’ resurgence has been young outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., who has put up massive numbers in his two MLB seasons. He and first baseman Freddie Freeman’s firepower should spearhead another deadly Braves offense this year.
From a pitching standpoint, the Braves are once again stacked with a deep and trustworthy rotation, including Mike Soroka and Cole Hamels, and even bolstered their bullpen to give them depth at all positions.
However, the Braves will have no easy path to the World Series, as a number of other prominent teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees will be hungry for titles of their own. It’s going to take a complete and flawless postseason with minimal injuries, but I think the Braves have what it takes to win it all this October.
Harrison Cho is a sophomore writing about sports. His column, “The Chosen One,” runs every other Thursday.