- Royce Webb, Director, Content Analytics
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Once again, the West is best, according to our ESPN panel of 93 basketball experts, which expects the Western Conference to win about 53 percent of its games this season. (That's 633 wins versus only 597 for Eastern Conference teams.)
And once again, sitting triumphantly on the throne are the Los Angeles Lakers, the two-time defending NBA champs, going for the second three-peat of the Kobe Bryant-Phil Jackson era -- and a four-peat in the West. Worth noting: If the Lakers see the Heat in the NBA Finals, as many expect, the series will not start in L.A., according to our panel's crystal ball.
Where the West gets especially interesting is east (and north) of L.A., where teams such as Oklahoma City, Dallas, Denver, Portland, Utah, San Antonio and Houston are expected to battle it out for the right to be considered the Lakers' truest threat, while the Suns might be the odd men out.
So here we go with the West as we see it:
Forecast: 2010-11 Western Conference Standings
* -- Teams tied in win totals ordered by decimal rankings from our experts' predictions.
7hMarc Stein and Mike Mazzeo
4dIan O'Connor, ESPN Senior Writer