Taste test: Rating East offseason order

Updated: August 11, 2009, 1:07 PM ET
By John Hollinger |
Vince CarterFernando Medina/NBAE/Getty ImagesVince Carter, 32, should help make the Magic the East favorite to return to the NBA Finals.
Say this about the NBA this summer: They've kept it interesting.

We were expecting a fairly humdrum free-agent season while everyone held their cards for the LeBron Sweepstakes next summer. Instead, the opposite happened. Every contender in sight began loading up, and despite warnings of economic Armageddon, several championship hopefuls blew past the luxury-tax threshold without even tapping the brakes.