The New York Knicks' fortunes have swayed in the wind over the last week or so. They’ve wrapped their heads around the idea that All-Star Julius Randle will not return this season, and they’ve successfully worked OG Anunoby and Mitchell Robinson back into the rotation. They lost an easy game last week against the Chicago Bulls, but snuck out strong wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and Sacramento Kings. And there’s still a good deal of madness ahead, as playoff seeding is far from final.

The Knicks (like much of the Eastern Conference) have a lot of possibilities regarding playoff seeding that must be finalized in the final week of the regular season. They are technically tied with the Orlando Magic (46-32) for the third seed, but Orlando won the season series against New York. So, New York currently owns the fourth seed, with a half-game lead on the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Knicks are also only a game behind the second-seeded Bucks and just one-and-a-half games ahead of the sixth-seeded Indiana Pacers. Technically, the seventh-place Philadelphia 76ers and eighth-placeMiami Heat could catch New York, too. However, those scenarios are far less likely—and aren't anything the Knicks want to spend too much time considering.

Shifting focus to the remaining games, New York has four games left, with matchups against the Bulls (twice), Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets. They should win three of those games (if not all of them), but nothing is certain. If they go 3-1, the Knicks will ends the season at 49-33. How does that compare to teams with whom they’re competing for postseason position? Let's explore.

Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) and guard Damian Lillard (0) during the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Fiserv Forum.
© Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Milwaukee is the most surprising team on this list given how high expectations were prior to the season. They also have the toughest remaining schedule of the five teams under consideration. The Bucks have two games left against the Magic, as well as a game against the Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder. That’s a tough way to close the season for a team that’s lost four straight games and won only just of their last 10.

Milwaukee will probably end the season with a 1-3 record, meaning they’ll close the year at 48-35. 

Orlando Magic

The Magic are a surprise entrant here, but for an entirely different reason. No one expected them to be this good this soon.

To end the year, Orlando will play the Bucks twice, which is obviously not as difficult a matchup as it looked just a short while ago. They also have remaining games against the 76ers and Houston Rockets. Given how Philadelphia has gotten back to its winning ways with the return of Joel Embiid, the Magic will probably lose that game, but win the remaining three. In other words, they should end the season with a 49-21 record, which will be good for the second seed.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) controls the ball against Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) during the first half at Arena
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Like Milwaukee, the Cavaliers are reeling of late, too. They have only three games remaining, with matchups against the Rockets, Pacers and Charlotte Hornets. Considering Cleveland is just 3-7 in their last 10 games, too, it’s fair to assume they lose to Indiana. Still, Houston and Charlotte are winnable games. Expect the Cavs to close the year with a 2-1 record, and a 48-34 record overall.

Indiana Pacers 

Despite playing considerably better than many of the other teams on this list, the Pacers are just a little too far behind the Knicks to make a legitimate run at unseating them. They have three games remaining in total against the Toronto Raptors, Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks. They’ll probably win all three, ending the season at 48-34.

Granted, all of the above records are projections based on how (and who) the respective teams are playing. But it’s fair to assume that everything written above will play out as projected, in which case the Knicks will end the year as the three seed. They will likely face the sixth-seeded Cavaliers, who fall to sixth by virtue of ending the year with the same record as the Pacers and losing the head-to-head series 3-1.

Cleveland represents a favorable matchup for the Knicks. And if playoff seeding plays out in this manner, a second-round matchup with the Magic is about as good as can be expected, assuming Orlando advances past whoever secures the seventh seed.

Ultimately, New York cannot afford to get distracted by other teams. Instead, they must focus on taking care of business and winning their own games. Assuming they can do that, they might surprise some people with a deep playoff run — but only time will tell.