Preseason prediction: Spurs to take Southwest Division

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Editor's note: We asked our panel of NBA experts, "Who will win the Southwest Division?"

1. San Antonio Spurs (8 votes)

J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Time to take the final step toward greatness and repeat.

Jon Barry, ESPN: Perhaps I was a little overzealous when I picked them to repeat last year during the Finals. It's amazing how they come at you. Maybe this season they have what it takes to prove they can repeat.

Chris Broussard, ESPN Mag: Spurs are back intact and eager to prove they can defend their title. Only concern is whether there'll be a slight decline due to aging.

Ric Bucher, ESPN Mag: The NBA's answer to the Patriots.

Chad Ford, ESPN.com: They might not win their division, but come playoff time, is there anyone who can stop San Antonio? The only stumble comes if Tim Duncan starts to wear down.

Mark Jackson, ESPN: A team that knows what it takes to win, and understands what it takes to get to the finish line year in and year out -- with a Hall of Fame coach.

Jack Ramsay, ESPN Radio: They have four titles, but none back to back, which is a big incentive. They also have good leadership from coach Pop and Tim Duncan, with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili still improving and a good pickup in Ime Udoka.

Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com: They haven't had a bad season in 11 years, and they haven't even had a four-game losing streak in four years. Not a dynasty, but the next best thing: an unshakeable, proven commodity.

2. Dallas Mavericks (7 votes)

Henry Abbott, ESPN.com's TrueHoop: It's brutal! Houston? The reigning NBA champion Spurs? I'm going to gamble that Dallas will have the best regular-season record, because they excel at that, and the Spurs will be pacing themselves.

Jemele Hill, ESPN.com: A deep team that's poised to have another spectacular regular season but disappointing postseason. Their view of the world title has been reduced to a crack.

Chris Palmer, ESPN Mag: The difference? Devin Harris' maturation and increased role. Who else does Dallas have who can keep up with Tony Parker, Leandro Barbosa and Chris Paul?

Jalen Rose, ESPN: Like the Eddie Jones and Trenton Hassell additions. Can go small and big. Dirk is still going to be unstoppable. See them having a tremendous regular season.

Marc Stein, ESPN.com: Don't forget that they responded to the heartbreak of the '06 Finals by winning 67 games. So the Mavs are more than capable of rebounding from the Golden State series . . . at least in the regular season.

David Thorpe, Scouts Inc.: I love the additions to a 67-win team, which should have learned some valuable lessons last year on the subject of peaking too soon. Overlooking them in favor of the other two Texas teams plays to their favor.

Kiki Vandeweghe, ESPN: The best regular-season team. But the Spurs are the team to beat in the playoffs.

3. Houston Rockets (3 votes)

John Hollinger, ESPN.com: Offseason upgrades Luis Scola and Mike James give Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming enough juice for a title run.

Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com: On a mission, no permission. Steve Francis came back like Kotter.

Keith Lipscomb, ESPN.com Fantasy:
Each season has its surprise division winner. I love the addition of Luis Scola, but T-Mac and Yao need to be in uniform, not street threads, for 70-plus games.