Point guard: Derek Fisher vs. Deron Williams
The mentor vs. the student. They’ve played together during Fisher’s brief time in Utah, but since then Williams has become one of the top point guards in the nation. There’s not much Williams can’t do offensively. He’s strong, can shoot from range, but going to the rim will be somewhat more of an adventure with Gasol and Bynum waiting for him. It also wouldn’t surprise me if Kobe or Trevor Ariza are asked to defend Williams on some plays. Williams must find a way to get it done, because he’s the Miles Davis of this Jazz ensemble. Advantage: Jazz.
Shooting guard: Kobe Bryant vs. Ronnie Brewer
Good luck, Ronnie. Advantage: Lakers.
Small forward: Trevor Ariza vs. C.J. Miles
Actually, Miles is listed day-to-day because of a dislocated finger. Miles doesn’t give the Jazz all that much on either end of the floor, while Ariza is mostly known for his defensive prowess. Ariza can shoot the 3-pointer if he’s open and is a strong finisher around the rim. Advantage: Lakers.
Power forward: Pau Gasol vs. Carlos Boozer
Boozer isn’t entirely back. He’s not 100% healthy and Pau Gasol is. Both are very skilled players, but Gasol’s height could cause some problems for Boozer on both ends of the floor. Advantage: Lakers.
Center: Andrew Bynum vs. Mehmet Okur
Bynum is back, still huge and already has put up some impressive numbers during the final games of the regular season. Phil Jackson still is critical of Bynum’s defense, but his presence alone changes a lot. Okur’s shooting touch will lure Bynum out of the paint, widening up the lane for Utah’s guards or wings to penetrate. It’s a tough choice. Advantage: Lakers.
The Jazz have in Paul Millsap a power forward on the bench who proved that he could start on most teams, probably as early as next season for his current team. Then you have Kyle Korver, a 3-point gunner, and the do-everything Andrei Kirilenko, who could see a lot of minutes against Kobe. The Lakers can bring in Lamar Odom, Luke Walton, and recently Shannon Brown got some more minutes over Jordan Farmar. And let’s not forget about The Machine, Sasha Vujacic. Aside from Brown, these guys were all here last season, so they know what it takes to win. Advantage: Lakers.
Coaching: Phil Jackson vs. Jerry Sloan
This seems unfair to Sloan, but if I have to choose between coaches and one of them has won nine championships, who do you think I would choose? That’s right. Advantage: Lakers.
What I’d Say:
Lakers is five. Utah will give them a brief scare, but the Lakers won’t flinch. The Jazz aren’t adept defensively to contain all of L.A.’s fire power.