SZNAP CHAT – MAY 4
By Adam Sznapstajler

SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS UPDATE

We are coming into the final stretch of the NBA and NHL seasons and both the Heat and Panthers have interesting and exciting teams that expect to contend for titles. For my first column, I want to give you my thoughts on the current state of South Florida sports. Naturally, everything will take a backburner to the Miami Dolphins and the NFL Draft.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins made it clear by trading down from the third pick that they were content in risking that Kyle Pitts or Ja’Marr Chase would be picked before them, and they were proven correct on this wager. Then with the sixth pick they took a familiar target for Tua with Jaylen Waddle.

Although Waddle was probably the higher wide receiver on most draft boards, many fans and pundits felt as if Devonta Smith would be the better pick between the two. Personally, I find myself stuck between the two but I probably would lean more towards Waddle. Smith had a more prolific college career but his current NFL role is undefined, while Waddle will come in and immediately start at slot receiver for Miami. I am not as worried about Smith’s size, considering Waddle was the one with injury history. I would also have to think that they consulted Tua Tagovailoa, their current quarterback and former passer to both receivers, who he felt more comfortable being on the receiving end of his throws.

At eighteen Jaelan Phillips offers a lot of upside with some injury risk. However, since I can’t predict injuries, I am excited to see him in some pass rush situations this season.

Hedging on their first round injury risks, the Dolphins used their two second round picks to get “plug in and play” NFL starters with high floors. Jevon Holland and Liam Eichenberg will both be day one starters. Holland will fill multiple rolls in the secondary and do his best to mimic what Patrick Chung did in New England and Eichenberg can immediately fill the void at right tackle and allow Robert Hunt to stay inside at guard where he is more effective.

For the rest of the draft, the Dolphins added depth at the offensive line, tight end, and running back position. If I had one issue with the Dolphins draft it’s that they did not really address the running back position earlier.  There were some good backs available but it seems the organization has a completely different view on the position’s value than I do.

Miami Heat

With only seven games left in the NBA season, the Heat are playing with fire as they continue to dance around 7 and 8 seed and the dreaded play-in tournament. For what has been an extremely inconsistent and streaky season, it would be nice for the team to put on one of their better stretches when the games matter most. Avoiding the play-in tournament should be the number one priority for a team that can easily lose two straight games. Also players like Andre Iguodala, Trevor Ariza, and especially Goran Dragic can use the extra pre-playoff rest and not have to play two extra games.

I am excited about the prospect of Victor Oladipo coming back for the postseason. His injury has led directly to an extra work load for Dragic which the team would like to avoid going into the postseason. Is it interesting to see who the odd man out will be when Oladipo comes back because it was Nunn last time.  The way he is playing, it could be Tyler Herro?

Florida Panthers

With only three games remaining on the season, and two of them against the Lightning, the Panthers are still in the hunt for the top spot in the division and possibly the league. The Cats are unstoppable against every team not named Carolina and haven’t missed a beat since the loss of Aaron Ekblad. Part of that is the play of Anthony Duclair, whose scoring ability has kind of canceled out the loss of defense from the Ekblad injury. Then, you add Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau to the mix especially since they are playing at All-NHL level.

What to watch for: I still worry about the defense with Ekblad out especially since the scoring will be harder to come by in the playoffs. The hope is that Sergei Bobrovsky or Chris Driedger can go on a roll in the playoffs, giving the defense an extra needed boost.

Miami Marlins

The Marlins are showing promising signs early in the season. The Marlins have some of the best starting pitching in the league and solid bullpen performances have kept the team from going underwater. Jesus Aguilar has been playing All-Star caliber baseball right now and his bat has been powering the team while the lineup is currently missing its 3 best hitters. Trevor Rogers has shown future ace level talent and Sandy Alcantara is one of the best pitchers in baseball over the early part of the season.

Inter Miami

Only three matches into the season and Inter Miami is already playing at a level of form they didn’t even come close to last season. What was predicted by many pundits to be a bottom feeder, Inter Miami has looked like a solid team, taking four points in their first three matches. More importantly, the team has played well as a unit.  That’s a sign that new manager Phil Neville has brought his team together in a way former manager Diego Alonso was not able to accomplish. Gonzalo Higuain seems to have some new legs under him and I’m excited to see what he can do this season. The team definitely missed both Higuain brothers after the loss of their mother but gutting out a draw against another playoff team was not in the books last season. Additionally, adding Gregore to the midfield has definitely shored up what was one of the weaker performing lines last season.