Editor's note: We asked our panel of NBA experts, "Who will be the Western Conference champion?"
1. San Antonio Spurs (9 votes)
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com:
Jon Barry, ESPN: Going to stick to my guns on this pick. A Pistons-Spurs final might be the worst on style points.
Chad Ford, ESPN.com: The heart says Phoenix, but the head says Phoenix can't beat the Spurs in a seven-game series.
Jemele Hill, ESPN.com: While the story lines hover around Phoenix, L.A and Dallas, the Spurs will quietly go about making their way to the Finals for the fifth time in a decade.
Keith Lipscomb, ESPN.com Fantasy: Just because I have them being edged out in the Southwest doesn't mean I've lost faith in their postseason abilities.
Jack Ramsay, ESPN Radio
Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com: If they avoid Denver in the playoffs, they cruise to the Finals. Yes, that's disrespecting Dallas. But we've lost most of our respect for Dallas the past two postseasons.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: Heart says it's the Suns' turn or maybe even the Mavs' turn. Head says that the Spurs are too good to go 0-for-5 on repeats.
Kiki Vandeweghe, ESPN: Enough playoff experience. Players in their prime. Extremely well-coached -- an underrated aspect of their game.
2. Phoenix Suns (5 votes)
Henry Abbott, ESPN.com's TrueHoop: This season, the Suns are breathing fire.
Chris Broussard, ESPN Mag
Mark Jackson, ESPN:
Dallas and San Antonio will have great seasons and know how to win. Golden State's a sleeper and Denver and Utah will be good. But this will be the Suns' year.
Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com BOAWG: Brains over athleticism wins games. That will be the difference between the end of last season and this one.
Jalen Rose, ESPN: Adding Grant Hill helps them all around.
T-3. Dallas Mavericks (2 votes)
Chris Palmer, ESPN Mag: Is it now or never for this bunch? Maybe not, but it sure would be nice if Dirk came through on that whole "untouchable" thing.
David Thorpe, Scouts Inc.: I like teams that pay dues, and this team has paid plenty the past two postseasons. Look for them to be more relaxed this time when it counts.
T-3. Houston Rockets (2 votes)
Ric Bucher, ESPN Mag: Because with Rick Adelman they'll be able to play fast or slow.
John Hollinger, ESPN.com: The three best teams are in Texas, and it's three different Texas finalists in three years if this comes true.