The best of the best in the Eastern Conference was decided by one shot.
If Jimmy Butler had held the ball two centimeters back in his right hand for just a little more elevation, if he’d taken just a little more time to gather himself, if the slightest breeze hadn’t blown through the lower bowl of Miami’s arena at that particular moment, maybe Butler’s 3 at the end of Game 7 goes in and it’d be the Heat, instead of the Boston Celtics, moving onto the NBA Finals.
The Celtics, it should be said, went on to take a 2-1 lead in the finals over the Golden State Warriors before things fell apart. The point is, Boston’s team was pretty darned close to winning a championship. Therefore, it can be said the Heat weren’t so far away, either.
Should either of the top two teams in the East, then, be thinking of dramatically changing what they have built to acquire Kevin Durant?
Since news broke of Durant’s request that the Brooklyn Nets trade him, the sentiment in stories from around the NBA, like this one, is that there are essentially 29 teams interested. “It’s freaking Kevin Durant,” one Warriors source told The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson, in discussing why Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green would not be opposed to a reunion with their enigmatic former co-star. The same report said Warriors decision-makers probably won’t trade for Durant, even though they could do it without tearing apart their core of future Hall of Famers.
The same cannot be said about the Celtics and Heat.
Boston has already improved since the finals without parting with a single player who made much of an impact in the last two playoff rounds. Crushed by the dual combination of poor bench play and the absence of a ballhandler who could dribble into the lane without turning the ball over in the finals, the Celtics acquired Malcolm Brogdon from the Indiana Pacers in exchange for Daniel Theis, Aaron Nesmith, Nik Stauskas, two other players and a first-round pick. Then, Boston agreed to a free-agent contract with Danilo Gallinari, giving the franchise two legitimate scoring options off the bench after it reached Game 6 of the finals with just Derrick White filling that role consistently.