A day after NBA GMs declared the Miami Heat favorites to win the 2013 NBA Finals, broadcaster and Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley is warning that the Heat will likely be challenged by a number of teams in the playoffs next spring. He warned that the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers both have a good chance at beating Miami in a seven-game series.
"Everybody wants to anoint, everybody wants to say it's going to be the Heat against the Lakers," Barkley told the Miami Herald Tuesday. "To me, the Miami-Boston series is a toss-up."
Barkley said Boston's size gives them "a legit chance of beating" the Heat.
Meanwhile, Sir Charles thinks the Oklahoma City Thunder, last year's Western Conference Champions, would not fare any better should they face the Heat in the 2013 Finals, but the Los Angeles Lakers have what it takes to top Miami.
"You've got to beat them up physically," he said of the Heat. "The Lakers can beat them because you've got a big team that can dominate them down low... LeBron James is great but he can't stop Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard down low."
Barkley's fellow analyst and former Heat center Shaquille O'Neal called the Heat "the team to beat," but warned "if Boston is healthy and fully healthy, they have a shot." O'Neal thinks the Lakers can challenge the Heat as well, but likes the fact that the Heat are a younger team.
Steve Kerr concurred that the Lakers could challenge the Heat thanks to their acquisition of center Dwight Howard. "It's too much to ask Chris Bosh to guard Dwight Howard and LeBron James to guard Pau Gasol beyond small stretches," he said.
But it is no sure thing that the Lakers can unseat the Thunder in the Western Conference and reach the NBA Finals. Howard's health is a big question mark, as he is coming off herniated disc surgery that sidelined him for the 2012 playoffs with Orlando.
The Heat open the 2012-13 season on October 30 with a home game against the Boston Celtics.