The 5: Things to be thankful for as an Arizona sports fan in 2019
If you’ve been a sports fan in the Valley of the Sun the last few years, you might see why this year is one to be especially thankful for.
There’s been a lot of change — for the better — since last Thanksgiving in Arizona sports. And as another fall is upon us, it’s time to reflect on what we’re thankful for.
There’s plenty there.
We looked at five things Arizona sports fans should be thankful for in 2019, and it was nice to find it so easy:
Kyler and Kliff
The tandem of No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray and head coach Kliff Kingsbury has worked out well in 2019 for the Cardinals, who have improved drastically on their offensive production and have been competitive in just about every game they’ve played.
Arizona’s NFL team (3-7-1) isn’t exactly vying for a playoff spot this year, but the more important matter at hand is that the Cardinals seem to have a franchise quarterback in the fold.
In 11 games this year, Murray has completed 64.6% of his passes for 2,703 yards, has thrown 14 touchdowns, five interceptions and rushed for 418 more yards and three scores. The Cardinals entered their bye week ranked 11th in the NFL in yards after finishing dead last in that statistic last year.
A new era of Suns basketball
The Phoenix Suns got off to a good start this season and appear to be trending in the right direction thanks to new head coach Monty Williams, some offseason moves by general manager James Jones and, notably, a legitimate starting point guard in Ricky Rubio.
Whether the Suns get back to the playoffs this year is questionable, but as it stands, it looks like they’ll at least compete for a spot.
Coyotes on the upswing
The Arizona Coyotes had one of their best seasons in several years in 2018-19 and are looking to build upon that in 2019-20.
Nick Schmaltz, Conor Garland, Phil Kessel, Darcy Kuemper and Clayton Keller are part of what should make fans optimistic for what’s ahead with the Arizona club, which is looking to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2011-12. Getting the offense going while sticking to an identity of strong defensive hockey will be part of the formula.
While we’re at it: Be thankful for not one but two goaltenders, as Arizona boasts one of the best goalie tandems in the league with Kuemper and Antti Raanta. The Coyotes will need both if they want to reach their goals.
Promising young Sun Devils
College sports gives us the annual bittersweet sendoff of key players. Last year, wide receiver N’Keal Harry went onward to the NFL, and it looks like running back Eno Benjamin could do the same.
The good news now is that a Herm Edwards-led ASU football program has attracted some solid recruits, so those players — along with the young talent that’s already on campus — could comprise a strong Sun Devil squad for a few years in a row starting next year.
This year’s squad started out 5-1 before going on a disappointing losing streak, but the point remains the same: quarterback Jayden Daniels headlines an attractive core of young players in Tempe.
The emergence of an All-Star
The Diamondbacks are looking to build a perennial contender, but while they do that, there is this great bit of good news: Ketel Marte looks like the real deal.
A pickup in a trade with Seattle, Marte has now played most of three seasons with the D-backs, batting .290 in that span. He took off in 2019, making his first All-Star team, finishing fourth in National League MVP voting, hitting a whopping 32 home runs and driving in 92 runs. His .981 OPS is impressive and gives hope for a bright future with a player that’s only 26.
By the way, Marte is signed to a team-friendly five-year, $24 million contract that runs through 2022, per Spotrac.