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How Josh Richardson saved the Miami Heat

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Last season injuries should have wrecked the Heat's season. Josh Richardson unexpectedly came to the rescue.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Johnson had shoulder surgery on February 4, 2016 to effectively end his season. Chris Bosh played his last game for the year on Feb. 9, 2016 due to medical issues. Yet the Miami Heat went on to capture the third seed for the playoffs in spite of those setbacks.

In their first game after All-Star break, the Heat defeated the Hawks, 115-111, without Bosh, Dwyane Wade or Hassan Whiteside. Luol Deng scored 30 points, Josh McRoberts had a double-double with 19 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds off the bench to lead a gutsy team effort for the win.

Hopefully this season will follow the same recipe of the team's depth overcoming unforeseen adversity. Nobody expected Josh Richardson's huge impact when he finally received significant playing time. His long arms on offense and defense earned JRich the nickname "Extendo" from Wade, or could "Spiderman" be his calling card?

Second-round draft picks usually don't impact teams in their rookie year, except under unusual circumstances such as last season for Miami. ESPN highlights the flaws in pre-season predictions,

"For instance, in August 2012, when we published our predictions, we didn't know the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets would shake up their teams with the James Harden trade shortly before the season.

We didn't know that Andrew Bynum would go down before the season, shattering all the optimistic forecasts for the 76ers.

We didn't know that Dirk Nowitzki would have surprise knee surgery in October and miss more than two months of the season.

We didn't know Kevin Love would break his hand in October, sending the Timberwolves tumbling."

Forecasters act as if no player in the NBA will be injured in the upcoming season. In reality some guys have breakout seasons, like Richardson, or become busts, like Anthony Bennett. When all is said and done the final standings depend heavily on the health of key stars, as well as their talent, over 82 games of the regular season, and onto the post-season contests.

Richardson came off the end of bench, and D-League stints, to save the team after injuries to Tyler, Bosh, Beno Udrih and trading of Mario Chalmers left Miami no choice but to play him. With that in mind, Riley's agenda includes constructing a roster with depth at every position, just in case a black swan appears.

Most teams have steep drop-offs in talent past the starters. What happens if Kyrie Irving, Carmelo Anthony, Kyle Lowry, Paul George, Derrick Rose or Al Horford miss significant time? Heat's game plan could be the slow and steady approach of being patient, while a surprise injury wrecks their competitor's season.

Miami has all hands on deck this summer, including McRoberts, as they prepare for battle in October. Besides the players, assistant coach Dan Craig is looking to repeat his success with the Sioux Falls Skyforce from last season. In the desolate winters of Sioux Falls, far from the glamorous South Beach social scene, he took a group of underachievers, who shared an overriding commitment to do whatever they had to, for their chance on the big stage.

This summer group bonds, in an empty gym devoid of outside distractions, with the same mentality of making it against all odds. Lead by the all-consuming drive of Craig to make the team a cohesive unit, they are all business, and nothing but business on the practice courts and weight rooms.

For sure other teams have more recognizable names, but how many will drop by the wayside and not finish the season to stand in the winner's circle?