Charles Barkley: ‘I Think The Utah Jazz Can Win The Championship’
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Charles Barkley said he believes the Utah Jazz can win an NBA championship this season. The former superstar made the argument for the Jazz on Thursday night’s episode of Inside the NBA.
Barkley hosts the show alongside Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith, and Ernie Johnson.
“I think Utah Jazz can win the championship,” Barkley said.
Barkley campaigned for the Jazz amid doubts from Smith and O’Neal.
“Kenny, they’ve got the coach of the year, they’ve got two All-Stars, they’ve got the Sixth Man of the Year, I’m telling you,” Barkley protested. ” Remember last year they got jobbed because [Bojan] Bogdanovic didn’t play playoffs, they would have beat Denver last year if Bogdanovic had have played.”
Despite his arguments, (albeit flawed as the Jazz had three All-Stars) neither Smith nor O’Neal were ready join Barkley aboard the Jazz hype train.
“I don’t know how Shaq feels, but proven commodities usually win in the league,” Smith said. “So, it hasn’t been a proven commodity. I just haven’t seen it, unless it’s an assembling of superstar players, teams [don’t] come out of nowhere and win the championship.”
The last team that won a championship without an obvious superstar on the roster was the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons, who coincidentally beat O’Neal’s Lakers team that was loaded with superstar players.
Smith and O’Neal claimed the Jazz owning the best record in the NBA was a step in the right direction, and could be ready to win a championship next season, but aren’t there yet.
“The next step is to make it past the second round,” O’Neal said.
After winning back-to-back first-round series in 2016 and 2017, the Jazz have been eliminated in the first round each of the last two seasons.
“I guarantee that won’t happen this year,” Barkley argued back.
The Jazz first climbed atop the Western Conference on January 27, and have owned the best record in the NBA outright since February 2.
If the playoffs were to start today, the Jazz would have homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs and would face the final qualifier from the Western Conference play-in tournament.
With 13 games remaining in the regular season, the Jazz own a two-game lead over the Phoenix Suns for the top spot in the West.