2008-09 prediction: Hornets to take over Southwest

Chris Paul will be happy to have James Posey around to help N.O. win a talented Southwest Division. Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

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

1. New Orleans Hornets: 14 votes

Henry Abbott, ESPN.com's TrueHoop: Paul, Chandler, West and the Hornets almost knocked the Spurs out of last season's playoffs. Despite Houston's retooling, this prediction feels safe.

J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: The right blend of talent, youth and now experience to win the NBA's toughest division.

Chris Broussard, ESPN Mag: Everyone except Peja Stojakovic is getting better.

Ric Bucher, ESPN Mag: This is the only division title up for grabs, with the Rockets and the Spurs right there, but the Hornets in general, and CP3 in particular, feel they have something to prove.

Chad Ford, ESPN.com: Look for Chris Paul and company to repeat their success of last season.
James Posey has the potential to put them over the top.

Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com

Mark Jackson, ESPN: With Chris Paul at the point and Byron Scott as coach, they are legitimate title contenders.

Tim Legler, ESPN: Chris Paul is ready to take this group to another level. James Posey will have a huge impact.

Jackie MacMullen, ESPN.com: James Posey will be the X factor in the postseason.

Chris Palmer, ESPN Mag: From top to bottom, the most complete team in the conference, maybe the league.

Jack Ramsay, ESPN Radio: Toughest division in the NBA. Hornets win by a narrow margin over Spurs and Rockets. Look for CP3 to really blossom and for an unstoppable David West. James Posey will do his thing: shut down scorers and knock down treys.

Jalen Rose, ESPN: With a productive bench, it's the Hornets. Tyson Chandler plays in his first All-Star Game, and his rebounds and blocked shots will anchor the defense.

Marc Stein, ESPN.com: Still struggling to picture the Hornets winning the West, but I can see them winning basketball's toughest division. Outright this time.

David Thorpe, Scouts Inc.: Developing their bench and a backup center are musts if the Hornets hope to get past all of the top teams in the West. Adding James Posey helps, but are the bigs ready?

2. Houston Rockets: 4 votes

Maurice Brooks, ESPN.com: Ron Artest and Shane Battier provide the toughness and defense, while Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming give the Rockets a 1-2 scoring punch.

John Hollinger, ESPN.com: Should hold off the Hornets to win the league's toughest division.

Keith Lipscomb, ESPN.com Fantasy:
I love what Ron Artest brings to this team. It's easy to forget the Rockets finished just one game behind co-division champs New Orleans and San Antonio in 2007-08, even with all the health issues.

Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com: I do not expect Yao and T-Mac to remain injury-free, and I do not expect Ron Artest to be a saint for 82 games. I thought Luis Scola was the best big man in Beijing. I'll take the Rockets by one game over the Hornets.