4 vs 5: Knicks vs Sixers
The big storyline here would be the health of the Sixers Joel Embiid. The league's reigning MVP recently underwent knee surgery and it remains to be seen if he will return this season. If Embiid is healthy and playing at the level he was earlier this season, nobody will want to face Philly come playoff time.
The Knicks would likely be disappointed to finish in 4th; however, given the amount of injuries they have suffered the past few weeks, it is certainly plausible. After the acquisitions of Bogdan Bogdonavic and Alec Burks this past week, there is little doubt that, when healthy, this is the Knicks deepest and most formidable team of this century.
If the Knicks are able to return Julius Randle, OG Anunoby, and Mitchell Robinson before the season ends, they can match up with any team in the league in a seven-game series. A healthy Knicks team led by Jalen Brunson matched up with a healthy Joel Embiid in round 1 has all the makings of a classic series.
For the first time in a long time, the Knicks will have legitimate expectations entering the postseason, meaning a first-round exit would be nothing short of a disaster. For Philly, a first-round loss would be the latest chapter in a series of playoff heartbreaks in the Embiid era and would likely lead to real questions about his future with the team.
A fun wrinkle in this series is the not-so-well kept secret that the Knicks have long coveted Joel Embiid. Could they actually be the team that finally forces him to ask Philly out of Philly? And if so, would Philly even consider sending him to the team that just eliminated them?