3 Teams that should especially want to avoid Knicks in first round of playoffs

The Knicks will be a nightmare matchup.

New York Knicks, Jalen Brunson
New York Knicks, Jalen Brunson / Kirk Irwin/GettyImages
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The New York Knicks should be the team nobody else wants to face in the playoffs, especially if they're fully healthy. OG Anunoby's return to the lineup made New York look like a different team, and Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson are still out.

The Knicks quieted their haters last year with a 4-2 win over the Cavaliers in the first round, and they're stronger than they were then. Tom Thibodeau has helped construct a defensive-minded monster of a team. After the Anunoby trade, New York went from having one of the worst defensive ratings in December to the best in January.

It's still too early to determine what the Eastern Conference playoff bracket will look like, but these three squads should be crossing their fingers that they won't have to play the Knicks.

3 Teams that should want to avoid Knicks in first round of playoffs

3. Cleveland Cavaliers

You could argue that out of every playoff-bound team in the East, the Cavaliers should want to face the Knicks the least in the first round. Two back-to-back series losses to New York would be catastrophic, or at least, it would feel that way.

However, playing the Knicks last year could give the Cavaliers a leg up in the postseason. That doesn't mean Cleveland should automatically be favored to win if the two teams play, but it could be an advantage. If it turned out to be the opposite, Cavs fans definitely wouldn't be able to escape the Donovan Mitchell-Knicks trade rumors.

The star guard didn't sign an extension before the season, but he'll have another chance to do so over the summer. If he doesn't, Cleveland's front office would have to seriously consider trading him, whether over the offseason or before the 2025 deadline. He has a $37 million player option for 2025-26 that he could decline to become a free agent.

Losing another playoff series to New York would be tough enough. It would be even tougher if Cleveland lost Mitchell because of it.