"The rich keep getting richer" is a perfect way to describe the 2012 NBA offseason.
The Miami Heat and L.A. Lakers have become even more dangerous heading into the 2012-13 season, and their respective moves and acquisitions will also prove to be real difference-makers when it comes to the overall shape and structure of the league over the next few years.
The NBA is no longer a competitive league—the balance of power has shifted to a few "elite" teams that have the draw and appeal to acquire top-tier talents like never before.
The common themes of this past offseason? First, that super-teams are a thing of the present (and future) in the league, and that rivalries don't mean nearly as much as they once did.
Ahead are five offseason moves that reshaped the league and solidified the NBA as a league where parity and small-market teams have little to no chance.
The Dwight Howard saga came to an abrupt end with his blockbuster trade to the L.A. Lakers.
While the Lakers gave away their young franchise center for Howard, the trade just goes to show that superstar talent is drawn to big-market teams with an immediate chance at an NBA title.
The Lakers gave up their future for a chance at immediate success, and while that's the direction the league is going, it also shifted the power from the Miami Heat back to the west coast.
With Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gaosl and Howard, the Lakers have the most dominant lineup in the league, which certainly reshapes the league's look in more ways than one. If Howard isn't happy in Los Angeles, though, that shift of power could swing back when he enters free agency next year.
When LeBron took his talents to South Beach, the super-team train left the station. Now, the Lakers have not only gotten on that train, they've sped it up quite a bit.
Ray Allen's move means much more than just a cagey veteran signing with a championship-caliber team—it shows the decline of loyalty in the NBA.
It's not like there weren't any teams interested in Allen. The Celtics, his team for the past five seasons, wanted him back, but Allen wanted a better chance at an NBA title.
Can you blame Allen, though? Playing with LeBron, Wade and Bosh is much more enticing than playing with an immature Rajon Rondo, an overrated Paul Pierce and an aging Kevin Garnett.
Still, the Lakers could've offered Larry Bird $100 million for one season and he would have rejected it because the Lakers were enemy No. 1. Do you think Magic Johnson would have joined forces with Bird because it gave him a "better chance" at an NBA title?
Allen's signing just goes to show that rivalries aren't valued nearly as much today as they were in the past.
Jeremy Lin's signing with the Houston Rockets won't necessarily impact the balance of power in the NBA all that much, but the fact that the New York Knicks didn't re-sign him will.
What was so shocking about this move (or, lack of one for that matter) is the fact that the Knicks are already overpaying for Tyson Chandler at $14 million, Carmelo Anthony for $21 million and Amar'e Stoudemire for $21 million per year.
Having $56 million tied up in three players not named LeBron, Wade or Bosh is absolutely insane, but what is even crazier is that the Knicks weren't willing to backload a contract so that they could build for their future. The Knicks made a decision that will not only hurt them this season, but the long term as well.
The Eastern Conference also lost another top-tier contender, as the Knicks are now a team without an identity. That certainly shifts the balance of power a bit.
Serge Ibaka's four-year, $48 million contract extension is an underrated move that affects the league because it enables the Thunder to make a push for James Harden to sign an extension before he enters the qualifying offer year of his contract.
While the Thunder will have nearly $57 million tied up in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, the fact that Ibaka signed an extension gives the Thunder hope that Harden will follow suit.
For his part, Harden has already stated that he is "pretty sure" he will be with the Thunder for the long haul.
Instead of having to choose between Harden and Ibaka, the Thunder might have the luxury of holding onto both, solidifying the Thunder as a Western Conference favorite for the foreseeable future.
While Harden could seek a max offer at year's end, the Thunder at least have a chance of convincing the reigning Sixth Man of the Year to sign a contract extension. Should he stay, its impact will be felt for years to come across the entire foundation of the NBA.
Deron Williams had a chance to go to his hometown Dallas Mavericks, but he chose to make the move to Brooklyn with the Nets, where he had a super-team forming in front of his eyes.
With Joe Johnson, Kris Humphries, Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace, Williams has all the talent he needs to help the Nets become a top Eastern Conference contender.
The Nets have transformed themselves with their big offseason, and they have Williams to thank for that. The Knicks now have some competition in the Big Apple, and that is something that will be extremely exciting to watch over the next few years.
Shifting the focus away from the Knicks in New York is never easy, but the Nets managed to do just that over the summer. And that's certainly going to reshape the outlook of the NBA for the next few years.