First round: 4th seed New York Knicks vs. 5th seed Cleveland Cavaliers
Don't look now, but both the New York Knicks and the Cleveland Cavaliers are shooting up the standings. The win columns continue to tick up for both. I have the Knicks edging out the Cavs in the second half of the season to secure homecourt advantage in the first round. This is directly tied to the OG Anunoby trade and its recent results.
The Knicks are 11-2 since the trade for Anunoby. That is scary. Jalen Brunson has a case to be made that he should be the starter for the East in the All-Star game, however, he will surely be a reserve. Julius Randle is a fringe reserve All-star as well. This team is deep and they are playing incredibly well, and I don't expect that to stop.
On the other side, we have the Cavs...who also just so happen to be playing very well. The Cavs are 10-3 in their past 13 games. Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen have been playing out of this world. It'll be very interesting to see how much the Cavs can potentially improve once they get star guard, Darius Garland back from his broken jaw.
This matchup is a rematch of last year's first round playoff between the two. The Knicks won last year's series 4-1. That was largely due to the fact that Donovan Mitchell received little to no help in that series, with the exception being Caris LeVert. In order for the Cavaliers to pull off this first-round upset, they will need their second-best player to not be LeVert. They will need Garland, Allen, and Mobley to rise to the occasion.
Will they rise to the occasion? The Knicks rid them of their playoff hope in five games last year. While I don't expect this series to end that quickly, I do expect the Knicks to still come away victorious. I just think that they have too much talent on this roster. The Anunoby experiment has gone better than anyone could have hoped, and Jalen Brunson is an animal come playoff time. I'm taking the Knicks to move on to the Semifinals.
Prediction: New York Knicks win 4-2