For the upcoming first round series against the Utah Jazz, we've done a detailed breakdown of the point guard position, which is a key position because of the Jazz' Deron Williams. Now, with Game 1 just around the corner, Ryan previews the series at all five positions.
Be sure to weigh in with your thoughts on the positional matchups.
Derek Fisher, LA vs. Deron Williams, Utah:
I don't think there is much of an argument here. Williams is undoubtedly the Jazz' top player and averages 19.4 points per game to go along with 10.7 assists and over a steal a game. The 24 year oldalso has plenty of playoff experience thanks to a Western Conference Finals trip in 2007 and a Wester Conference Semifinals berth last year. Fisher, for all of the leadership and experience, just is not the same player Williams is or even the same player he was a few years ago. Fisher averages 9.9 points per game and 3.3 assists, but his feet have slowed with age and he's a defensive liability at times. Throw in his poor shooting at the end of the year and Williams wins this match-up in a landslide. Edge: Williams, Utah
Kobe Bryant, LA vs. Ronnie Brewer, Utah:
This isn't really fair to Brewer because there is maybe only one other shooting guard in the NBA that can play Kobe to a draw. It's not really much of an insult either to say Kobe is clearly the better player here either considering he is the reigning MVP, average 26.8 points per game and 4.9 assists. He can also lock down defensively when needed. Brewer is a solid player in his own right, averaging 13.7 points per game on over 50% shooting, but he's no Kobe Bryant. Edge: Bryant, LA
Trevor Ariza, LA vs. CJ Miles, Utah:
Ariza moved into the starting lineup in the later part of the year following a strong first half in which he made a name for himself for his hustle, athleticism and ability to get into the passing lanes defensively. Ariza has also shown an expanded offensive game to the point that he is making defenses pay for leaving him open on the perimeter. CJ Miles's role for Utah is very similar to Ariza's role for LA. Miles is a fine defensive player and can knock down the open jumper. He is very active and can create havoc. Normally, this match-up would be a draw, but Miles will be playing with a recently healed dislocated left index finger so the edge goes to the healthy. Edge: Ariza, LA
Pau Gasol, LA vs. Carlos Boozer, Utah:
If both were healthy, this would be one hell of a match-up, but ever since Boozer returned from knee surgery it's become increasingly clear that he is not 100%. He lacks the explosion and quickness that he utilized so well in past season. Boozer averaged 16.2 points and 10.4 rebounds during the season, which is pretty darn good for a guy that's not 100%, but he's going up against an All-Star who is playing at a very high level. Gasol averaged 18.9 points and 8.9 rebounds this year, while chipping in with 3.5 assists. When asked to, Gasol can up those numbers, but he's more than willing to play second fiddle to Bryant. From a neutrals perspective, you had to be wishing that these two would be healthy, but they're not, which puts Gasol ahead. Edge: Gasol, LA
Andrew Bynum, LA vs. Mehmet Okur, Utah:
Will Okur be able to play or not? It looks like for game one Okur won't be able to go and when he does get into a game he may not be 100% because hamstrings are always tricky. Meanwhile, Bynum is still trying to work himself back into game shape and find his rhythm after missing over two months with a knee injury. Okur will provide Utah a deadly outside shooter as well as rebounding help when he can play, but Bynum will provide the Lakers a tough interior presence and solid rebounder. Most importantly, Bynum keeps his man honest on the offensive end because as soon as his man leaves to help on a pentrator, the ball handler tosses the ball up for an ally oop. If Okur were healthy this match-up would be vastly different, but with Okur such a question mark health-wise, Bynum has an edge. Edge: Bynum, LA.
With Andrew Bynum returning to the Lakers' lineup, Lamar Odom has been able to return to the second unit and reunite The Bench Mob. Jordan Farmar went into a major slide once he hurt his foot and his confidence is very low right now, but midseason acquisition Shannon Brown has stepped up. Sasha Vujacic found his shooting stroke in the regular season finale and will undoubtedly have chances to hit from the perimeter. The Utah bench is solid with Matt Harpring, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Price and Andrei Kirilenko at Jerry Sloan's disposal. Jarron Collins is also an option off the bench when Okur is healthy enough to start. When each of the second unites are playing at their best though, Los Angeles has the edge because of Odom's versatility and because Utah's best shooter, Korver, has been neutralized by Vujacic in the past. Edge: LA
Everybody knows about Phil Jackson's rings, his mind games, his triangle offense. Everybody also knows about Jerry Sloan, but I don't think people realize just how good of a coach Sloan is. Jackson's Bulls teams beat Sloan's Jazz in consecutive Finals, but I wouldn't chalk that one up to PJ. Those two rings come down to the one weapon Jackson had that Sloan didn't: Michael Jordan. When you talk about the best coaches in today's game, Jackson is a gimme for the top group, as is San Antonio's Greg Popovich and many will throw Larry Brown in there, but Sloan deserves to be there too. Phil one of the best this game has seen, but so is Sloan. Edge: Draw
The Lakers finished the season just as they began it, hot. They are on a mission and have last year's Finals loss as fuel. The Jazz have Energy Solutions Arena though, which is arguably the toughest place in the league to play. Edge: Draw
We've got one Jazz win, five Lakers wins and two draw. In the end, it's Williams for the Jazz and everybody else for the Lakers.