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Staying healthy should be the major priority for Heat next season

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Last season's starting five was formidable on paper, but injuries, not talent, ruined a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. Can Pat Riley mastermind an injury-free season leading to a June Finals appearance?

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Pat Riley's Q&A stressed how important health was for the Miami Heat next season, using Chris Bosh as the focal point. A full season of Bosh could have seen the Heat still involved in postseason play this year. Dwyane Wade being in 74 games, because of excellent conditioning over the summer, greatly contributed to the Heat's third-place seeding in the Eastern Conference.

The summer of 2015 saw the NBA's most sought-after free agent, LaMarcus Aldridge, choose the San Antonio Spurs because of their winning culture, only to be knocked out in the second round by the Oklahoma City Thunder due to the energetic duo of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant being healthy again for the playoffs. Clearly Aldridge was disappointed with the outcome, but was undone by an aging supporting cast.

Miami faced a sobering reality check after the intoxicating LeBron James years. The last two years have produced a combined postseason record of seven wins and seven losses. They have looked good on paper at the start of the season, but broke down physically as the games piled up. The challenge in 2016-17 is avoiding season-ending injuries.

During the 2014-15 season Josh McRoberts and Chris Bosh were lost to multiple injuries and a serious medical condition, respectively. This season, a recurrence of blood clots to Bosh, in addition to serious injuries suffered by Tyler Johnson, Beno Udrih and Hassan Whiteside derailed hopes of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Heat will make roster changes this summer, but will the team be at full strength in spring of 2017? Thunder coach Billy Donovan's coaching genius this year didn't come from game plans, but having his key players in top condition come May. Last year coach David Blatt failed to win a championship in part due to injury problems, no matter how freakish they were.

Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden believed bulked-up basketball players were injury-prone, such as Whiteside and Valanciunas. He preferred lanky players, e,g. Tim Duncan, who may not be as powerful, but last longer. Kobe Bryant lost weight to prolong his career, as Wade did last summer.

Pat Riley addressed a number of personnel issues Wednesday at his season-ending press conference and stated his current summer priorities. Possibilities exist, such as:

  • With Whiteside and Wade, Riley believes he has 2/3 of a "Big 3", depending on Bosh's health or another "whale" he might land.
  • Riley mentioned trading for draft pick. SB Nation reports Lakers or Sixers might trade their picks for "proven" player, which could make sense as a Goran Dragic salary dump.

Rumors on signing and/or trading players this summer may act as flame bait, but health is a primary concern to success in the playoffs. How did the new Thunder and Cavalier coaches keep essentially the same teams physically fit when the month of May rolled around? The Spurs signed Aldridge last year, but he couldn't stop a well-conditioned Thunder's team. Should keeping lean and mean be the Heat's top priority, as other teams self-destruct with injuries?