HALL of Famer Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith agreed it’s going to be a wide-open race for the NBA championship this year, with most of the 16 teams in the playoffs having a legitimate shot of winning it all.
“I’ve got no idea who is going to win the championship,” said Barkley. “I’ve been in the NBA for over 30 years and I’ve never seen that there’s never been clear cut like two or three teams (winning the championship).”
Barkley and Smith, hosts of Turner Sports’ award-winning show Inside the NBA, offered their thoughts on this year’s playoffs in a teleconference organized by the NBA and Turner Sports on Thursday afternoon (Friday morning Manila time) with reporters, including Spin.ph.
The NBA legend who played for the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, and the Houston Rockets said this year’s race to the championship will definitely top last year’s playoffs, which culminated in the San Antonio Spurs dethroning Lebron James and the Miami Heat in the Finals.
“First time ever that I’ve seen three or four teams that can win the championship. This year, I’m going to be honest with you. There are probably seven teams that can actually win the championship and like I said, ‘I won't be surprised if they won it,”’ said Barkley.
The seedings for the NBA playoffs were not determined until the final night of the regular season which saw New Orleans clinching the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference with a win over the Spurs, who dropped from being no. 2 to No.6 in the highly competitive West.
Golden State emerged the top seed in the West after finishing the regular season with the league’s best record of 67-15, only the 10th team in league history to win as many games.
Over at the East, Atlanta surprised everyone by taking the No. 1 seed with a 60-22 record, seven games clear of second-ranked Cleveland Cavaliers, who are making their first playoff appearance since James first left the team in 2010.
Smith said the competition in the NBA playoffs is so tough he feels the Warriors and the Hawks are not even assured of making it to the Finals.
“After the first round, you have the best eight teams in the league. Anything can happen,” said Smith, who won two championships with the Rockets in 1994 and 1995.
“I don’t think anybody is a lock for a championship. But I will say this. Both teams (Golden State and Atlanta) are locked for the conference finals,” he added.
TNT is the exclusive home of the bulk of the NBA playoffs’ first and second round games in the US. TNT will also air the entire 2015 NBA Eastern Conference finals.