Hoops legend and TNT talking head Charles Barkley has a virtual patent on guaranteeing his picks. Like most confident bettors, Barkley sees his choice come in sometimes. Sometimes not. But Barkley isn’t talking Auburn-Alabama in college football this time — he’s on more familiar terrain as he makes his prediction on the “team to beat in the NBA right now.”
Guess what? It’s the Milwaukee Bucks, according to Barkley, who has placed his faith in Giannis Antetokounmpo and company before. This time the reactions are filled with snark and laughter (and Boston blowback), since all Barkley did to display his brilliance was pick the team with the best record in the league, a team on a 16 game winning streak, and a team with largely the same core that brought them their last NBA championship.
Not to mention a 27-5 record at home, where they are currently positioned to play more than any other team throughout the playoffs.
One commenter nails the Barkley sagacity with this: “Charles Barkley thinks the team with the best record in the East is the team to beat, that’s top notch sports journalism.” In Barkley’s defense, journalism is reporting what happened — Barkley was asked to predict what will happen. But it’s true Barkley isn’t going out on any limbs.
“Scorching hot take,” says another, with deep sarcasm. “He says this every year,” writes another.
But Barkley doesn’t have it easy, despite picking the current chalk. The Boston Celtics have been ahead in the East for most of the year, and it was the Celts who represented the Eastern Conference in last year’s NBA Finals. Plenty of comments simply dispute Barkley’s pick with one word: Celtics.
Bucks fans point to Bucks guard Khris Middleton‘s injury last year as being a factor in the Celtics ascension, but Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have looked even better this year, meaning Barkley’s Bucks pick, while hardly a stretch, isn’t exactly like picking Secretariat. (Though Antetokounmpo may be the player in the league whose competitive fire and physicality most resembles that of Secretariat.)