The NBA Playoffs are now here and we already have a major storyline matchup in the first round: The Cleveland Cavaliers versus the New York Knicks. Basically, this matchup will be the team who won the Donovan Mitchell sweepstakes against the team who missed out on Donovan Mitchell.
New York was seemingly a shoe-in, to a large degree, to end up landing Mitchell via trade from the Utah Jazz last offseason, but Cleveland eventually would be the club to acquire Mitchell, in what was fairly shocking at the time.
Regardless, both of these teams in the Cavaliers and Knicks have improved their records since the past season and have exceeded expectations. The Cavs went from a 9th seed last season after two Play-In Tournament losses to a 4th seed with home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs this season; Cleveland has also been first in the NBA in defensive rating. The Knicks went from an 11th seed to a 5th seed this season, and they’ve had the league’s fourth-best offensive rating this year.
Both teams have something they want to prove in this first round, in any case. The Cavs want to prove that they can succeed in the playoffs without LeBron James. The Knicks want to prove that this season isn’t a fluke and want to show that they are a real threat this year. Donovan Mitchell has been a major difference-maker for the Cavs and Jalen Brunson has been crucial for the Knicks.
Before the Cavs and Knicks begin their clash, let’s see how their projected starters rank during this series, in the event the typical ones will be ready to go.