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Training Camp Preview: Heat dealing with the loss of Chris Bosh

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Miami Heat enter training camp with the monumental task of winning without its All-Star power forward.

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Pat Riley acknowledged Monday morning the painful reality of preparing for a season without the formidable talents of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Joe Johnson, and Amar’e Stoudemire. Per reporters’ notes, “We [the Heat] are not working toward his [Bosh’s] return.”

Previously ESPN placed the Miami Heat 20th in their Power Rankings (Training Camp Edition), which serves only to motivate the team for the upcoming season. Goran Dragic recently said

"Every year somebody is projecting some numbers. I think we can take that number to be motivated, to show them that they are wrong."

Marc Stein wrote in his training camp assessment of the Heat for 2016-17:

With such a fancy training camp location -- Atlantic Paradise Island Resort in the Bahamas! -- Miami clearly rejects the notion that this is no longer one of the league's glamour teams. But who really knows what to expect from what's left of the Heat in Year 1 post-Wade? I frankly never thought Dwyane Wade would leave and don't know what to think now until we know more about Chris Bosh's availability.

Stein clearly believes that Riley was wrong to make resigning Hassan Whiteside, instead of Dwyane Wade, the number one priority during the summer. Whiteside and Dragic will be out to prove to the naysayers the team is more than capable of working together as a strong unit, even after Wade’s unexpected departure.

What critics overlook is the championship experience of coach Erik Spoelstra and the significant strengthening in the quality of the Heat’s rotation players. Having depth at every position is essential to NBA teams making it to the postseason in contending condition. That’s what Riley accomplished during the summer.

Already Khris Middleton will miss a large part of the season for the Milwaukee Bucks. Out west, Nikola Pekovic is done for the year in Minnesota. Injuries may weaken some other teams to improve the Heat’s odds in reaching the playoffs.

Since last February Chris Bosh’s return was never a certainty. Fortunately the Heat had time to prepare for the worst case that came to pass. Josh Richardson will miss only a few regular season games and his conditioning will have a minor overall effect on Miami’s chances, since Dion Waiters and Tyler Johnson are in position to take over as top guns at shooting guard.

The Miami Heat depth chart as it stands today could be:

  1. Point guard - Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Beno Udrih
  2. Shooting guard - Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson, Wayne Ellington
  3. Small forward - Justise Winslow, James Johnson, Luke Babbitt
  4. Power forward - Derrick Williams, Josh McRoberts, Udonis Haslem
  5. Center - Hassan Whiteside, Willie Reed, Chris Bosh

Bosh still counts towards the 15-man roster until other arrangements can be worked out, and was arbitrarily listed as the third choice at center. Only 13 men can dress for any single game, so somebody must be a DND. Among those available, what the team lacks in star power, it makes up in versatility and depth.

As a side note, the Winslow’s mysterious and the Heat’s shooting coach turns out to be Rob Fodor. Seattle Times writes, “Fodor is known as the ‘Shooting Guy.’ He has worked with players such as Tim Hardaway, Alonzo Mourning and Steve Blake. For the past decade, Fodor has worked as a player-development consultant for Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and was named shooting director of Spoelstra’s basketball academy last year.”

The biggest addition this season was Dan Craig returning as assistant coach, due to his success in leading the Heat D-League affiliate Sioux Falls Skyforce to a record-setting 4o games won with a 80% winning percentage and the league championship. His team, following the Heat system, won through a balanced approach to scoring, without losing its defensive identity. Look for Miami to follow that championship formula and be even better defensively than last season, because the Heat replaced 30+ year-old defenders with younger and more athletic ones.

As Riley puts it, “This new era of Heat basketball, Riley said, with Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson and Dragic excites him for various reasons. One, he'll get to see Spoelstra, his disciple, take a young, fast team and try to mold it the way he wants to. Two, the Heat has an opportunity to find new stars to lead the franchise forward.”

ESPN believes the Heat are a lottery team this season. It doesn’t matter whatsoever that Miami starts off ranking 20th, because nothing counts until April 12, 2017, when the last game is played. By then injuries and unexpected events will have taken their toll on every team in the NBA. With its depth of coaching and players, some of the glamour may just return to the Heat franchise as new faces replace former icons during their push to make the playoffs.