Looking ahead to the Jazz - Lakers series.
Deron Williams vs. Derek Fisher
These two know each other very well, which means Fisher will have a trick or two up his sleeve when it comes to covering Deron and making his teammates aware of Deron's tendencies. However, Deron is a dynamic dribbler, smart passer, and he's bigger, stronger, younger and healthier than Derek. Derek will draw one or two offensive fouls off Deron in this series, but otherwise I don't see him being able to do much.
Ronnie Brewer vs. Kobe Bryant
One is the NBA MVP, the other is a second-year player. Brewer's one of the best perimeter defenders the Jazz have, and he gets his points from slashing to the basket. Kobe gets his points whenever and whereever he wants, so all Brewer can do is hope to keep Kobe's shooting percentage low.
Andrei Kirilenko vs. Vladimir Radmanovic
Neither is known for being consistent offensively, but defensively AK47 is miles better than Vlad. Vlad however is more capable of getting on a hot shooting streak. AK is better at passing and involving his teammates.
Carlos Boozer vs. Lamar Odom
Boozer is stronger and a better finisher in the paint. Odom is a little more versatile. Boozer's not a great defender, so both will likely put up nice numbers on each other.
Mehmet Okur vs. Pau Gasol
Gasol fits in perfectly to the Laker system. He's a little quicker than Okur and better at post-ups and back-to-the-basket scoring. Okur's a great 3-point shooter and will force Gasol to play out on him, opening up the floor for Boozer. Okur is capable of playing good defense against big men (see Okur on Yao last year) but you never know when he's actually going to do it.
Ronnie Price, Kyle Korver, Matt Harpring & Paul Millsap vs. Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, Luke Walton & DJ Ilunga-Mbenga.
The two deepest benches in the West. Each unit plays very well at home, but the Lakers bench tends to produce better on the road than the Jazz bench does on the road. Farmar allows Fisher to take nice rests on the bench, whereas Price only plays about four minutes a game unless he's doing really well. Korver's a better shooter than Vujacic, although hasn't proven yet in the playoffs. Harpring's stronger but Walton's quicker and has been lights-out from outside. Millsap and Mbenga is a pretty even match-up, and while Mbenga's taller, I'd still give the rebounding edge to Millsap. If it goes to a tenth man, Jarron Collins and Ronny Turiaf are fairly evenly matched. If Bynum comes back, this changes, but...
Jerry Sloan vs. Phil Jackson
Sloan has zero rings; Jackson has nine.
The Lakers have home-court advantage. The Lakers are one of the few teams that won in Utah this year. The Jazz's offense, which has been stifled by the Rockets' stingy defense, should run a little smoother against the Lakers. You never know if Andrew Bynum can come back and play in this series. You also never know if Fisher's foot or Bryant's pinky might get re-injured. Or Deron's tailbone. Were I a conspiracy theorist, I'd say David Stern would love to see the Lakers make it to the Finals.
Prediction: Either the Lakers in 7 or the Jazz in 6. In that order.