CHAMPS GO DOWN: At the end of an extremely hard-fought, intense series, the Boston Celtics were finally able to prevail over the overmatched Toronto Raptors in Game 7, 92-87, to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals and face the Miami Heat. The closeout game was a pretty solid microcosm of how most of the series went: It was ugly, there was a lot of flopping, the defenses were better than the offenses and a few special players had standout performances.
But in the end, the Raptors just didn’t have that talent to match up with Boston, and the right team came out on top. For the series, the Celtics outscored Toronto by 37 points, making the fact that the series even went to seven games pretty shocking. Then again, championship mettle is a real thing, and the Raptors displayed a ton of it against Boston, particularly in their double-overtime Game 6 victory where they kept coming back despite looking absolutely exhausted by the end of the contest.
Looking ahead, Toronto will have some interesting decisions to make this offseason. Most importantly, Fred VanVleet, after a couple of seasons where his production has greatly outpaced his salary, will hit unrestricted free agency. It’ll be fascinating to see what Toronto decision-maker Masai Ujiri decides to do with him: Is he a keep-at-all-costs player? Or will the fact that Kyle Lowry is still playing at such a high level at 34 years old make a potential VanVleet departure easier to stomach?
There are also decisions to be made on Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol, who sit ninth and 20th respectively in our 2020 free-agent rankings.
Nevertheless, there’s still basketball going on, so it’s not time to look into the offseason quite yet. And if things go as expected and the two L.A. teams advance, we’re going to have two awesome Conference Finals series ahead.
Even then, no matter who wins the Clippers-Nuggets series or the Rockets-Lakers series, we’re going to have four brand-new teams in the Conference Finals this season. What’s noteworthy is that if the Lakers advance as is expected, two of the conference finalists (the Heat and Lakers) will be teams who didn’t even make the playoffs last year.
That’s flat-out nuts and just goes to show how quickly fortunes can change from year-to-year in the NBA. Take the Raptors as an example: losing Kawhi Leonard changed Toronto from what could have been a title-favorite this year to a team that looked outmatched talent-wise in the second round of the playoffs.
Who knows what next season has in store for them, but as we’ve learned, we should never count out a Ujiri-led team.
BUBBLE EJECTION: In what was by far the craziest story we’ve had since the season restart, Rockets swingman Danuel House got kicked out of the bubble for having an uncleared guest spend “hours” in his room. Even more shocking: the guest was a coronavirus testing staffer.
FOUR MORE YEARS? Tristan Thompson is set to hit free agency this offseason, and reportedly, there’s a chance he chooses to stay in Cleveland. If that does happen, the Cavs will likely be paying a good amount of money to four big men: Thompson, Kevin Love, Andre Drummond and Larry Nance Jr. Odd roster-building, to say the least.
STAYING PUT? Sharpshooter Joe Harris will be one of the top free agents available this offseason, but it sounds like both he and the Nets are making each other a priority.
TRADE CANDIDATE: After an embarrassing end to their season, the Bucks are expected to make Eric Bledsoe available in trade talks.
Bledsoe is under contract for three more seasons and projects to be the 65th highest-paid-player in the league next year. That won’t be an easy contract to move, especially after Bledsoe’s playoff performances over the past couple of postseasons.
POINT GOD IN PHILLY? There was a report this week that the Sixers have debated the idea of acquiring Chris Paul in the past, leading to speculation they could still be interested in trading for him.
Paul is 35 and owed a combined $85.6 million over the next two seasons, but from purely a basketball perspective, adding Paul could be huge for Philadelphia’s chances of contending.
FRESH POD: Speaking of the Chris Paul trade market, our own Michael Scotto and Yossi Gozlan discussed that topic and a variety of others (including Giannis’ free agency) in the latest edition of the HoopsHype podcast. Check it out here.
WHISPERS ABOUT MILWAUKEE: HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto talked to NBA general managers and executives to find out what they think about Milwaukee’s future.
MODEL OF CONSISTENCY: According to our advanced research, Jimmy Butler is the most consistent player in the NBA, statistically speaking.
MAJOR JUMPS: We use NBA 2k21 ratings to rank which players made the biggest jump from last season to this one. Miami’s Duncan Robinson sits at No. 1.
MAKING HISTORY: Princepal Singh hopes to be the second player of Indian descent to reach the NBA. He recently talked to our own Bryan Kalbrosky to discuss his path so far and what his future holds.