Knicks ‘Most Likely’ to Face Reigning MVP, Trade Target in Playoffs

Joel Embiid

Getty Joel Embiid posts up Mitchell Robinson during a December 2022 Game against the New York Knicks.

For the third time in four years, the New York Knicks are going to the playoffs. And it’s looking more and more likely they’ll face Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers in round one. gives New York a 32-percent chance of facing the reigning MVP.

There’s a 26-percent chance they draw the Indiana Pacers, an 18-percent chance of the Miami Heat or Orlando Magic, and a seven-percent chance for a rematch of last year’s first round with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

With two games remaining, the Knicks are 48-32, surpassing last season’s 47-wins. They have a one-game lead over the Cavaliers for the three seed, and are one game back of the Milwaukee Bucks for the two-seed.

Facing the 76ers and Embiid in the first round may open the door to further trade speculation.

And it could be accompanied by an opening series win for New York.

Knicks Interest in Embiid is Well Known

Prior to becoming the President of Basketball Operations for the Knicks, Leon Rose was Joel Embiid’s agent.

There’s a mutual affinity there. And with that, a basis for trade rumors that may never subside.

As recent as October of last year, Rose was prepared to offer multiple members of the Knicks’ starting five to Philadelphia. Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported the details.

“The Knicks are willing to offer a package that includes three key players,” Pompey wrote on October 24. “With Julius Randle, R.J. Barrett, Evan Fournier and Mitchell Robinson all available in exchange for Embiid, according to sources. A trio from that group would be paired with two or three first-round picks.”

Three things have happened since Rose attended Embiid’s wedding that are worth noting as it relates to this saga.

One, the Knicks pulled off a pair of mid-season trades, sacrificing both Evan Fournier and RJ Barrett in order to acquire Alec Burks, Bojan Bogdanovic, and OG Anunoby.

Two, Embiid suffered an injury to his left knee that required surgery.

He’s since returned and is looking in shape with the playoffs just weeks away.

And three, Julius Randle too suffered an injury, in his shoulder, that required surgery. But his season is over.

That doesn’t alter the years of logged interest for New York.

And it doesn’t change the dreary outlook on Embiid’s future in Philadelphia. But it put a halt on trade talks, while leaving the door open.

All the off court drama and rumors aside, a first-round series against the 76ers bodes well for the Knicks.

Knicks Can Beat 76ers

In the four-game season series against Philadelphia, New York won three games.

Embiid was available for only one of those games, and it was a blowout Knicks win.

A first-round series where these two teams face off will take place at Madison Square Garden for the first two games.

The 76ers lone win in MSG this season was over a New York team missing Anunoby and Mitchell Robinson, two of the team’s best defenders. They’re both healthy now, although Robinson is working towards game shape.

In 219 possessions with their new starting lineup of Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Hart, Anunoby, and Isaiah Hartenstein on the floor, the Knicks are outscoring opponents by 16.4 points per 100 possessions.

Truth be told that’s a small sample size. Too small to draw any grand conclusions.

But in 980 possessions with Anunoby and Hartenstein on the floor, New York is outscoring opponents by 23 points, and holding teams to 100 points per 100 possessions, which is in the 100th percentile for all teams.

Philadelphia is going to face a New York defense that’s gelled and swelled in the return of their best defenders. Point guard Tyrese Maxey is going to have to focus more on stopping Brunson than scoring his nightly 25.

And for Embiid, life isn’t going to be easy. With a rotation of Hartenstein and Robinson, he’s going to have to work a little harder for the full 48 minutes. Advantage, Knicks.