Ranking the Orlando Magic's potential first-round playoff matchups

The Orlando Magic are set to return to the Playoffs for the first time since 2020. They are not fighting to the end of the season to make the field. They are fighting for homecourt advantage. So it is time to consider their best matchups.
Orlando Magic v Indiana Pacers
Orlando Magic v Indiana Pacers / Justin Casterline/GettyImages
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Ranking the Orlando Magic's potential Playoff matchups

Decent spot to be: Cleveland Cavaliers, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks

These three teams are beatable in the playoffs, each for their own reasons. But they are no pushovers and the Orlando Magic would not find it easy going against any of these experienced squads.

Starting with the Cleveland Cavaliers, they have been playing great regular season basketball for the second season in a row. But just as we saw last year, they may look different in the playoffs. The New York Knicks were able to get them uncomfortable and expose their weaknesses in the interior throughout their first-round series last year.

The Magic have the same type of tenacity the Knicks did last year, but they have shown glimpses of the ability to suffocate a team with their defensive intensity. The Cavaliers do not strike the same kind of fear into me as the other top teams in the conference.

Having said that, Cleveland worked Orlando on the second night of a back-to-back in January. The Cavaliers can be suffocating defensively on their own. The biggest impediment for them might be health. And with Donovan Mitchell, they have a go-to and dominant scorer.

For the Philadelphia 76ers, the reason is simple: We do not know what Joel Embiid is going to look like a month from now or even if he will play the rest of this season. They can say the plan is for Embiid to return before the postseason, but we really do not know what that looks like.

If he does return, can he still play big minutes?

That is the thing that is turning the Sixers' season. They could be borderline title contenders with a healthy Embiid. And the Magic would not be able to handle him even with Wendell Carter's best efforts.

Tyrese Maxey could provide some issues for the Magic too. But Orlando's depth and defense in any series that includes a less than 100 percent Embiid is a good bet.

And last in this category, we have the Knicks. Probably the closest to the Magic in terms of physical makeup and tenacity. I really do not think any team in the East wants to play against these two squads. They are mirror images of each other -- with the Knicks having more consistent and experienced offensive options.

The Magic and Knicks have played three rock fights so far this season with the Magic coming out on top for all three. But the Magic have not yet faced the Knicks at full strength after the OG Anunoby trade in December.

Injuries are a big factor here for the Knicks. Jalen Brunson, OG Anunoby and Julius Randle are all battling something and that has led the Knicks to slip in the standings. They are a different team when all three are healthy.

There is no indicator they will not be back for postseason play, but it is tough to know just how ready they will be.

If both teams are fully healthy, this could a true throwback playoff series. Slug fest games, loud home crowds and no way it does not go six or seven games.