CHARLES Barkley sees the same three top teams battle for supremacy in the East, noting that for the young Philadelphia 76ers to rise, Markelle Fultz should step up.
“I think it’s a three-team race in the East between Toronto, Boston and Philadelphia,” said Barkley of the squads that made the top three entering the playoffs last season.
“Obviously (Joel) embiid and (Ben) Simmons are terrific,” said Barkley, drafted by the Sixers and going on to make the Hall of Fame, in an interview on nba.com.
“The key is gonna be Markelle Fultz, whether he can play or not, to me he’s the key.”
The No. 1 pick had a bizarre season with a messed up his shooting motion and talk of a shoulder injury.
Getting Wilson Chandler was “an upgrade” for the Sixers, but Barkley stressed Fultz’s performance will be crucial.
“It’s gonna come down to Markelle Fultz.”
The All-star turned analyst said the question still for the Raptors is Kawhi Leonard’s commitment, while the Celtics could face issues as stars Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving return from injury layoffs.
“It’s gonna be interesting watching that team play ’cause people they just assume they get two All-Stars back, like it’s just gonna all fit together,” Barkley said.
“I saw Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum play, they’re not gonna sit around and watch Kyrie and Gordon Hayward shoot the ball everytime.
“Those two young kids are terrific, and anybody who’d think they’d just gonna say ‘hey, Kyrie and Gordon, you all shoot all the shots and we’ll just stand around.’ That to me is gonna be very fun to watch.”
Asked about LeBron James and the Lakers, Barkley said the team can fight for a playoff place, but still not a top team.
“The Lakers have a good solid team, I think they’re gonna battle for a playoff spot,” Barkley said.
“But they’re no a contender, let’s be realistic they’re not a contender.”