Some of the big pieces have been falling into place for the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat.
Chicago added forward depth with the additions of Kyle Korver and Carlos Boozer, as well as signed restricted free agent J.J. Redick to an offer sheet worth roughly $20 million.
Miami, of course, added the top three free agents in LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh.
There is still toiling that has to be done to both rosters, but it is clear Miami is one of the teams to beat out east. It will be expected that the Bulls have to get through the Heat to reach the promised land.
It may still be early, but let's take a look at what it will take to compete, and possibly beat the new and improved team from South Beach (in no particular order).
Miami will present the issue of having a better starting five, and the best way to beat that is have better talent throughout the roster.
Case in point: Kyle Korver.
Korver has a lethal shot and holds the record for best 3-point field goal percentage in a season (50.3% set last season).
If Chicago can continue to add solid bench players to go along with Korver and recent rookie standout Taj Gibson, bringing in the reserves may not be painful to look at.
It is also important to note that it is not set in stone who the Heat can bring in with the money they have left after signing the 'Big Three.' Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem are nice pieces, but youth and generally better talent is something the Bulls could have more of sitting on the pine.
While there is not a lot of bonafide talent still out there, guys like Ronnie Brewer, Josh Howard, Sergio Rodriguez, and Eddie House could all be serviceable.
The Bulls were never an option for either of the 'Big Three' except maybe Bosh, but any way you look at it, Chicago took it off the chin.
With that it mind, the players can take that blow and put it back on the Heat when they see each other. Being able to play with that extra edge can prove to be a menace if Miami does not expect it.
The Bulls will have something to prove to three players who chose not to play in the windy city.
Plain and simple, Derrick Rose it the cornerstone of this franchise.
Now that it is even more obvious what his role is going forward, make sure the playbook shows it.
Rose is a lethal quarterback who is a distance shot away from elite-hood. Having a player being able to dribble and drive, pass and create offense with the addition of lost post presence and snipers equals a solid offensive game plan.
Tom Thibodeau, take note.
More important than offense is defense, and Thibodeau is kind of what the Bulls needed.
His defensive philosophies turned aging stars into better defensive-minded world champions, and kept a certain aging team in the hunt for a second ring when they had no business playing for it.
It is expected that the new coach can improve Rose's game, as well anyone else who has defensive deficiencies.
Losing Kirk Hinrich will hurt the defensive depth the Bulls had at guard. Hinrich had always played well against James and Wade when guarding them.
Having some of the key players like Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer getting physical with big boys James and Bosh could frustrate them and lead to some offensive chances on the break with Rose and company.
Tying into the defensive theme is playing big down in the paint. If you can take out the paint for Bosh and clog the lane for slashing Wade and James, you cause major problems for the Heat.
Players like Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson all have the size to cause problems for slashers like Dwayne Wade and LeBron James.
Putting the pressure on role players like Mike Miller to make shots when the 'Big Three' cannot connect could very well show a glaring weakness Miami may have.
It is not expected that all three of the trio go cold for a game or games at a time, but losing one or two for prolonged stretches in games could be crippling.
Photo: Lakes Top Buzz
Leave the hype and magnifying glass on Miami.
Play tough, beat the teams you are supposed to, and step up in the big games in Miami and Chicago.
Use that chip on the shoulder as an advantage, and stay cool under the radar.
Chicago has enough pressure to replace the holes one of the 'Big Three' was supposed to fill, and letting the other options contributing in the wake of the free agency fiasco is enough to handle during the long season.
J.J. Redick can be a nice addition, but...
$6 million plus?
It appears Redick is the starting two-guard, but he has never done it in the past, despite his continued improvements in Orlando.
The Bulls can let one slide. In the future, it is key to not pay too much for mediocre talent, when free agents pop up every season. None will potentially be of James' talents, but better players come around every season.
Spend wisely, and continued success past this year is just as important as winning now.
The fans drank the LeBron and D-Wade Kool-Aid and paid for it.
Now the fans need to look at the good team they have and believe.
The players and fans know that this team is capable of playing well and going somewhere in the Eastern Conference. The players have to show what they are capable of, and the fans will being to believe and continue to show up.
Chicago led the league in attendance last season with a mediocre product. Put an above average/solid product on the floor, and fans will come and believe.
Tempo is on Miami's side.
James, Wade, and Bosh all have some legs that move. Add in a few speedsters to that roster and we could witness one of the best fastbreak teams in recent memory.
If it is too fast, slow it down.
The Bulls will have the ability to run, but should also slow the tempo enough to make the 'Big Three' annoyed and anxious to explode on offense. A methodical offense can be extremely productive.
The cousin of Benny the Bull has been caught with illegal drugs once, maybe he can convince the 'Big Three' into buying some in an undercover drug bust.
Just a thought....
Note: Thanks to Kevin Bixenmann for the creative help.