Credit: USATSI

The NBA return is only 13 days away and as the days go by, people try to guess and predict what is going to happen once the league restarts. One of the hottest topics around the league right now is which teams are going to make the playoff, in which positions and their rivals in the postseason.

One of the most interesting teams to see will be the Portland Trail Blazers, who have underperformed this season. Not even adding Carmelo Anthony helped them become the team everybody expected them to be before the start of the season. Now, they will be fresh and will recover two valuable pieces in Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic.

The Blazers fans are hopeful to see a competitive team at the bubble, but they’re not the only ones raising the bar for the team. Former player-turned-analyst Charles Barkley is very confident about the Blazers and he’s stated that the team can actually surprise one of the biggest favorites for the title, the Los Angeles Lakers. Of course, they have to make the playoffs first.

“I’m gonna tell you this: If the Portland Trail Blazers get in the playoffs, they will beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round,” Barkley said on Inside the NBA on Thursday night.

If you’ve been followed Chuck for the past couple of months, you would know that this isn’t new for him. Last month he even claimed the Blazers were one of the sleepers to win the title along with the Philadelphia 76ers.

“I’ve got two sleepers for you. In the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers, but I’mma tell you something. The one team in the Western Conference, if they get Nurkic back and Zach Collins, nobody is gonna want to see the Portland Trail Blazers. They got arguably other than Steph and Klay the best backcourt in the NBA, Whiteside has been playing pretty good all year, but if they get Nurkic and Zach Collins back, nobody’s gonna want to see the Portland Trail Blazers. Those two teams could win a championship.”

The Blazers were 29-37 before the NBA entered hiatus. They were 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies, the 8th seed of the West. Among the teams that will compete for that spot are the Grizzlies, Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Spurs and more. The task won’t be easy from the beginning.

If they manage to beat these teams and win the play-in game, then the Blazers will probably have to face the Lakers (49-14). It’s hard to see them beating the Purple and Gold but this could be a case of a team that either gets inspired and goes to the Finals or is eliminated in the first round of the postseason. For most people, it would be the second scenario.