Phoenix Suns NBA Finals Betting History: How Charles Barkley’s 1993 Is Like the 2021 Team

Phoenix Suns NBA Finals Betting History: How Charles Barkley’s 1993 Is Like the 2021 Team article feature image

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley.

After missing the playoffs for 10 consecutive seasons, the Phoenix Suns ended their postseason drought with an unfathomable level of success, reaching the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993.

Back then, Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle led the Suns to a magical season that ended when they were defeated by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, who won their third consecutive championship.

Nearly three decades later with Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton at the helm, the Suns are back on the biggest stage competing for a championship.

There's parallels between the two teams, as both entered the season with low expectations despite trading for perennial All-NBA stars in Barkley and Paul. As we covered previously, the 2020-21 Suns surprised everyone by reaching the Finals as the second biggest longshot at 40-1.

Even after trading for a future Hall of Fame point guard in Paul, oddsmakers made the Suns' win total 38.5 in a 72-game season.

When the Suns traded Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry for Barkley before the 1993 season, expectations were also tepid at best. While the 1993 Phoenix Suns weren't seen as long shots on the level of the 2020 team, they similarly disrespected as many believed they gave away too much for Barkley. People thought the move wouldn't move the needle for Phoenix, which was losing three starters from a team that previously finished 53-29 and made the second round of the playoffs before being ousted by the eventual Western Conference-champion Trail Blazers.

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1993 Suns Preseason Title Odds

  • Preseason (Post Barkley Trade): +1500 (via Las Vegas Hilton Superbook)
  • Before playoffs: +250

Art Manteris, the retired vice president and director of the Las Vegas Hilton Superbook, didn't speak highly of the trade in an interview with the Arizona Republic in June 1992.

"The odds will not come down on the Suns," Manteris said. "If anything I'd lean the other way. I think the jury's still out on the ramification of that deal."

Manteris eventually opted not to make any adjustments to the Suns championship odds, leaving them at 15-1 to start the season.

"I did give that some thought but didn't go back and adjust them," Manteris said. "I personally don't think it adds much to the Suns and if it does, it'll take them a long time to get in sync".

Despite the star power that Barkley brought to the table, Manteris also believed that Hornacek was key to the success of the team.

"Hornacek, to me, is a real key ingredient to the soul of the team, the character of the team," Manteris said. "When teams give away their character, they hurt themselves. I don't care how much talent they bring in."

The Suns finished the 1992-93 season with an NBA-best 62-20 record, led by Barkley's MVP season. He averaged 25.6 points, 12.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists while leading the league in both scoring and rebounding.

The Suns had the league's fourth-best Net Rating (+6.7), ranking first in Offensive Rating (113.3) and ninth in Defensive Rating (106.7). Even more impressive is that the Suns finished had the league's best record despite Johnson playing just 49 games due to hamstring and knee injuries.

Barkley wasn't alone, though, as Majerle was second on the team in scoring at 16.9 points per game and voted Second Team All-Defensive in addition to being voted onto the All-Star team.

Despite the team's regular season dominance, it didn't lend itself towards success against the spread, going 40-41-1.

Playoff Series Odds

  • First Round: Los Angeles Lakers [Won 3-2]: Suns -3000/+2000
  • Conference Semifinals: San Antonio Spurs [Won 4-2]: Suns -650/+450
  • Conference Finals: Seattle SuperSonics [Won 4-3]: Suns -330/+250

The Suns didn't do too much better against the spread in the postseason at 10-14-0 ATS. In many ways, you have to wonder if the Suns underperforming the market was a sign of what was to come in the postseason.

Phoenix started the postseason dropping the first two games against the Lakers at home despite being 13.5-point favorites before head coach Paul Westphal delivered his famous, “We’re going to win the series,” and the Suns rallied to win three straight games to advance to the Western Conference semifinals.

The Suns were massive favorites over the Spurs, laying 8.5 in their home games, but they found themselves in a dog fight. After winning the first two games at home, the Spurs held serve at home, tying the series 2-2. With the Suns decisively winning Game 5 and series on the verge of going seven games after a strong performance from the Spurs in Game 6, Barkley delivered 28 points, 21 rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks, as well as a series-ending 20 foot jump shot that sent the Suns to the Western Conference Finals.

Despite opening as -350 favorites in the Western Conference Finals against the Seattle Supersonics (I miss them), this series wasn't any easier for Phoenix.

The Suns were able to escape and make their way to the NBA Finals behind Barkley's dominant performance in the clincher with 44 points and 24 rebounds. The performance set the stage for a showdown between two Olympic teammates: Barkley and Michael Jordan.

NBA Finals Odds

Odds courtesy of Michael 'Roxy' Roxborough via the Universal Press Syndicate

NBA Finals (vs Chicago Bulls) [Lost 2-4]: Bulls -240/+190

Although the Suns came into this series having home-court with the best record in the league, the Bulls still were favorites to win the series with the market giving them a 70% chance at winning the title.

Back then, the 2-3-2 home/away/home format was still a thing so the road team actually had a massive advantage if they could steal one of the first two games on the road.

Finals Odds to Win in Exact Number of Games:

With the Suns coming into this series battle tested as favorites, it's easy to see how many could have talked themselves into fading the Bulls despite coming into the Finals with a 10-2 record in the postseason.

The Game 1 line actually opened at -1.5 before bettors moved the line to -2. The Suns were a formidable opponent, winning multiple games on the road in the series, including a triple-overtime thriller in Game 3 with their backs against the wall down 0-2. Even more interesting is that while the Bulls won the series 4-2 on John Paxon's series-ending 3-pointer to win Game 6, both teams scored exactly 640 points a piece.

Ultimately, the Bulls proved to be too much with Jordan averaging a Finals-high 41 points per game, leading Chicago to its third straight championship.

NBA Finals Game-By-Game Odds

Game 1:Wednesday, June 9, 1993

Side: Suns -2 | ML -130/+110

Over/Under: 204 points

Final score: Chicago Bulls 100, Phoenix Suns 92

Series: Bulls 1, Suns 0

Adjusted Series Price After G1: Bulls -500/Suns +350

Props: Jordan vs. Barkley most points

Game 2: Friday, June 11, 1993

Side: Suns -2.5

Over/Under: 206

Final score: Bulls 111, Suns 108

Series: Bulls 2, Suns 0

Props: Most 3-point field goals: Suns -220/Bulls +180

Game 3: Sunday, June 13, 1993

Side: Bulls -8 | ML -450/+325

Over/Under: 209

Final score: Suns 129, Bulls 121

Series: Bulls 2, Suns 1

Props: Most points in Game 3: Michael Jordan -$120 / Charles Barkley -$120

Adjusted Series Price After G3: Bulls -800/Suns +550

Adjusted Odds to Win Exact Number of Games

Game 4: Wednesday, June 16, 1993

Side: Bulls -8 | ML -450/+325

Over/Under: 210 points

Final score: Bulls 111, Suns 105

Series: Bulls 3, Suns 1

Game 5: Friday, June 18, 1993

Side: Bulls -7.5 | ML -450/+325

Over/Under: 210 points

Final score: Suns 108, Bulls 98

Series: Bulls 3, Suns 1

Props: Jordan: Over/Under 37.5 points | Majerie: 2.5 made threes

Game 6:Sunday, June 20, 1993

Side: Suns -2 | ML -130/+110

Over/Under: 210 points

Final score: Bulls 99, Suns 98

Series: Bulls win, 4-2

Props: Scottie Pippen: Over/Under 21.5 points | Majerie + Danny Ainge: Over/Under 5.5 made 3-pointers

1993-94 Phoenix Suns Opening odds

Finals: +400 (via Caesars Palace)

After presenting a formidable challenge to Jordan and the Chicago Bulls despite the absence of Cedric Ceballos, who suffered a knee injury in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, many believed the Suns would be back. With a core featuring NBA's reigning MVP in Barkley, Johnson and Majerle, there were plenty of reasons to be optimistic about this group.

The Suns opened at 4-1 behind the Bulls and Knicks to win the 1994 championship. Although the Suns had continued regular-season success over the next few seasons they were eliminated in the conference semifinals in '94 and '95 and never found the same success with this core.

The Suns had a return to prominence in the early 2000s with "7 seconds or less" offense under head coach Mike D'Antoni with Steve Nash, Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire. While they made it to the Western Conference Finals twice they never were able to get over the hump. The Suns previously made the NBA Finals in 1976, when they lost to the Boston Celtics in six games.

Now, this year, the Suns are in the Finals for a third time. With Paul, Booker and Ayton at the helm, third time could be the charm.

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