Charles Barkley says he isn’t mad at what the Phoenix Suns did in trading center Deandre Ayton, but he's drawn a firmer conclusion about the franchise's decision to part ways with their top overall pick in 2018.
“Clearly with the Suns, something was going on with Deandre Ayton,” Barkley said on NBATV Wednesday evening. "It goes back to there was an issue with Monty Williams and Deandre Ayton. Now clearly it must have been something else going on in the organization. They clearly just wanted to get rid of him, but the big winner is the Milwaukee Bucks."
Nurkic, Little and Johnson are coming from Portland while Allen was with the Bucks. The Suns also traded second-round pick Toumani Camara to the Blazers in the three-team deal.
After making their third major move under new team owner Mat Ishbia, the Suns are one of Barkley’s favorites to win the Western Conference with the Los Angeles Lakers being his other one.
“I’m not upset with what the Suns did,” Barkley later said. “They made their big move going out and getting Bradley Beal. I don’t want to say they’re the favorites in the West. I love what the Lakers have done. You take your hat off to what the Lakers have done this summer. I think the Lakers and the Suns are the two favorites.”
Barkley isn’t snoozing on the Denver Nuggets, though, as they eliminated the Suns and Lakers in their run to winning an NBA championship last season.
“I really think the Nuggets lost some really good players, man,” Barkley continued. “I do. The Nuggets lost some good players. I don’t want to disrespect the champs, but if you ask me going in, I think the Lakers and the Suns are the two favorites in the West and in the East, it’s the Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks.”
"With the Suns, something was going on with Deandre Ayton. It goes back to there was an issue with Monty Williams and Deandre Ayton. Now it must have been something else going on in the organization. (Phoenix) clearly just wanted to get rid of him." Charles Barkley on trade #Suns pic.twitter.com/iAuNsVR4cG
— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) September 27, 2023
The Bucks sent Portland All-Star guard Jrue Holiday, 2029 first-round pick and a pick swap.
“Like I say, I’m not upset with what my Suns did, but I still say the Suns and the Lakers,” Barkley later said. “I don’t want to sleep on the Denver Nuggets. They’ve got Joker (two-time NBA MVP and 2023 finals MVP Nikola Jokic), but they lost a couple of really good role players (in Bruce Brown and Jeff Green).
“They’ve lost some really good role players. They’re going to be counting on some young kids. I don’t know if those young kids are going to be ready for that smoke in Game 6 and 7 against the Suns and against the Lakers.”
The Suns open the regular season with two road games Oct. 24 versus the Golden State Warriors and Oct. 26 against the Lakers. Their first matchup against the Nuggets is Dec. 1 in Phoenix, where Denver eliminated them in Game 6 of the conference semifinals.
“You look at what the Celtics did, you look at what the Milwaukee Bucks just did, you look at what my Phoenix Suns just did,” Barkley concluded.
“The Lakers probably, up until (Wednesday), had the best offseason in the NBA with all the trades and all the guys they re-signed. Man, the Nuggets, they’re the champs until somebody beats them. The Warriors had a good offseason. I think we can really get excited about what’s going to happen this year.”
Phoenix opens a five-game preseason slate Oct. 8 at Detroit. The Pistons hired Williams as their new head coach, signing him to the richest contract for an NBA head coach at six years, $78.5 million.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Charles Barkley still has Phoenix Suns one of the favorites in West even after Deandre Ayton trade