The Warriors are undefeated since Charles Barkley infamously said they had "no chance" of advancing out of the second round of the NBA playoffs. Now, Golden State has another Barkley prediction as a benchmark.
The outspoken Turner Sports NBA analyst predicted the Eastern Conference champion Raptors would beat the Warriors in the NBA Finals shortly after Toronto dispatched the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Sir Charles' reasoning? The dominance of Kawhi Leonard.
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"There's no player in the NBA I'd rather have than Kawhi Leonard," Barkley told Ernie Johnson and the rest of his "Inside the NBA" colleagues in Toronto's Scotiabank Arena. "He's a drama-free superstar. This guy had 17 rebounds [in Game 6] ... and remember last game he had his career high in assists. He just wants to win, and there's never any drama. What's gonna be interesting, Ernie, is he's got a long time to get healthy. They don't play 'til Thursday.
"But to answer your question? I'm taking the Toronto Raptors."
Leaving aside the notion that a player who demanded a trade is drama-free -- and that's not to say Leonard was wrong in exercising his leverage with the San Antonio Spurs last summer, mind you -- Barkley's belief isn't misplaced. Leonard is averaging more points per game (31.2) than any player remaining in the playoffs, with a usage rate (32.1) higher than anyone else, too.
Golden State Warriors
Leonard is a dominant, do-it-all superstar, but Barkley's body of work picking against the Warriors leaves room for one to wonder if he wouldn't have predicted an upset egardless of who advanced out of the East. We'll know soon enough if Barkley's hunch is correct, as Game 1 of the NBA Finals tips off Thursday in Toronto at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET.