The general consensus about the player movements around the league since the offseason begun is simply this: the rich get richer, the poor get poorer.
The state of the economy has much to do with it. Everyone and their mother knows some teams are just waiting on the offseason of 2010 to resurrect their franchise. The disparity between the "haves" and the "have-nots" has expanded from "significant" to "massive."
With the top four teams last season, the Lakers, Magic, Cavs and Celts as well as the eternally contending Spurs upgrading their rosters, the firepower at their disposal is scary, to say the least. Not to mention the fact that Denver has yet to retaliate and the Mavericks are bound to have something simmering.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have teams that have gotten worse. Besides the aforementioned Bucks and Nets, the Rockets are another team that have gone on a sharp descent. The Suns also seem intent in self-destruction.
The mid-tier group of teams making the playoffs but never looking like serious contenders have not done much to help their cause.
Utah, New Orleans, Philly and Atlanta are pretty much tied financially. In fact, if anything New Orleans will probably dump Tyson Chandler to save money. Ditto for Utah and Boozer or Milsap. Atlanta looks unlikely to resign Mike Bibby and the same can be said with Andre Miller for Philly.
A small select group of teams not in the top echelon of the league actually got better but their strides may either be minute compared to their rivals' leaps or they are simply too far off. Portland, Washington, Toronto, Oklahoma and the Los Angeles Clippers come to mind.
All said, could we possibly see at least five 60-win teams and a corresponding number of sub 22-win teams? Afterall, last year we had three and a half (half for Orlando's 59 wins) 60-win teams with a somewhat more equal distribution of wealth.
First candidate, the Los Angeles Lakers. With virtually the entire team (assuming Odom re-signs) returning and the solitary non-returnee Trevor Ariza being upgraded to a Ron Artest, the Lakers have gotten stronger.
The confidence and swagger that comes with a ring, together with the continual development of Andrew Bynum and Shannon Brown should offset the decline of Derek Fisher. Having Ron Artest on-board gives the Lakers another veteran other than Kobe who brings his focus every game, a constant criticism of the Lakers.
Bottom line: repeating or even surpassing last year's 65-win total is likely.
Next, the Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost Sasha Pavlovic and officially Ben Wallace (although unofficially they lost him since the playoffs started), added the massive Big Cactus/Diesel/Shaqalier. Shaq may be past his prime but with Yao Ming possibly out for the season, there is not another center other than Dwight Howard who is better than him.
Let us not forget that before the ECF, the Cavs swept through the playoffs and finished with the best regular season record. From the rumblings around the league, the Cavs are by no means done with their roster. If Danny Ferry does not pull all the stops, this could well be the last season they are mentioned as a contender.
Bottom line: Against weakened competition, blowing past the 60 mark is very likely.
The Boston Celtics were unlucky with injuries. Any team whose PF tandem is Glen Davis and Brian Scalabrine should not sniff the second round of the playoffs. But that the Celtics did it anyway testifies of their greatness. With KG back and adding 'Sheed, the Celtics have probably the best 4-5 trio outside of LA.
The Celtics are acutely aware that their window is closing but if they can stay healthy, another title run is not out of the question. The caveat is with Rondo and Perkins, the only key rotation players, being under 30, Doc Rivers has to manage their minutes carefully, even if it means forgoing some regular season games.
Bottom line: The Celtics are more dangerous in the playoffs than the regular season but they should have enough talent to inch over the 60-games mark.
Last year's losing Finalist the Orlando Magic added Vinsanity to their group of All Stars. VC being buried in the swamps of New Jersey was overlooked for the past two seasons even though he continues to turn out stellar performances.
Dwight Howard is not done growing his game (*cough* post moves *cough* free throws) and Jameer Nelson will have the entire offseason to recuperate from his injury.
Losing Hedo Turkgulo is a huge blow but VC will help them forget the Turkish delight. The bigger question, though, is who backs up Dwight? Gortat is most likely joining Dirk. Battie is gone. Adonal Foyle? I don't think so. Otis Smith has alluded to budget flexibility so we should see another signing or two.
Bottom line: Beating up on the likes of Milwaukee and New Jersey should help pad the total to 60 or 61.
The San Antonio Spurs have finally ventured from their Big Three and scrubs mantra with the RJ acquisition. Adding Jefferson gives the Spurs a much-needed fourth scorer, finally, and stealing DaJuan Blair in the second round gives them offensive rebounding and someone to do the dirty work.
If the Spurs can sign Antonio McDyess, the Lakers would be wise not to look at the East so soon. The most consistent team of the decade is not about go out with a whimper.
Bottom line: Pops has made no secret about his disdain for regular season games, even though they have the talent for it, unlikely the Spurs will pad their wins total at the expense of exhausting the Big Four. 55 wins seems more likely.
Although the Denver Nuggets have not added any players so far, if they can re-sign Birdman and Dahntay Jones, they still have a pretty good team. They finished with 54 wins last season but it was only towards the last two months that they really started clicking.
With the core back and the benefit of a training camp with Chauncey Billups, the Nuggets could well be a sleeper for the 60-win club, especially when they get to beat up on Minny, Sacramento and Memphis at least three times a year.
Portland is another sleeper pick depending on how they do on the trade front.
With the disparity widening, it is not far fetched to see five or six 60-win teams next season.