The Phoenix Suns enter the 2024 NBA season among the favorites to dethrone the Denver Nuggets and win the NBA title, which would be the first in franchise history. If the Suns are going to be playing basketball in June, Hall of Fame big man and “Inside the NBA” host Charles Barkley believes that their star center, Deandre Ayton, will be the key.
“It’s still to me going to come down to the Ayton piece because to me he is the most important piece,” Barkley said during a recent appearance on the Bill Simmons podcast.
Charles Barkley Sounds Off on Suns, Nuggets
The Suns were thought to be done making moves after acquiring star forward Kevin Durant at the NBA trade deadline. But they surprised everyone when they added three-time All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal in June ahead of the free agency period.
Now with a star-studded cast that includes Durant, Beal, and star shooting guard Devin Booker, many believe that the Suns should run away with the title in 2024 as they have one of the most lethal offensive juggernauts that the league has ever seen.
They have also added serviceable role players such as Eric Gordon and Yuta Watanabe.
However, even as stacked as the Suns are on paper, Barkley believes the Nuggets will still be a problem in the Western Conference, naming them co-favorites to win the title along with the Suns.
“They probably are the co-favorite with the Nuggets,” the Hall Of Famer added.
Charles Barkley Unloads on Sports Gambling
Barkley, one of the most popular talking heads in media, has never been one to mince words, even on topics outside the realm of sports. Sports gambling is one of those topics. Although online sports betting has not been legalized nationally, it is certainly trending that way. After North Carolina legalized sports betting in June, 34 of the 50 states have now legalized online sports gambling.
But despite its recent rise in popularity, Barkley doesn’t believe online betting is good for sports.
“There’s too much of it,” Barkley said to ESPN in June. “We’ve got people in the stands betting on who’s going make the next free throws. Think about that. If I was a scumbag, I’d look at a guy in the stands, a friend, and say, ‘Yo, I’m going to miss both of these free throws.’ Now, that’s cheating.”
The popularity of sports betting has peaked so much to the point that even athletes themselves have become involved.
In February, Suns star Kevin Durant’s company, Boardroom, announced an exclusive partnership with famed online sports betting website Fanduel.
Other athletes’ involvement with sports betting has not been as fortunate as Durant’s.
Per Fox Sports 13 Tampa Bay, the NFL has suspended 10 players just in 2023 “for either betting on NFL games or placing bets while on league property.”
Barkley believes the current issues with sports gambling are just scratching the surface compared to what could take place in the future.
“I had an NBA owner say in the next three to five years … they’re going to be making triple what they do on television revenue,” Barkley added. “And when you get to that point, I think it’s really scary. I mean, c’mon man, if you’re able to bet on if a guy’s going to make two free throws in the middle of a basketball game, that’s obsessive.“