Five Great Things About the 2016 Miami Heat Season

Less than three weeks ago, the Miami Heat found themselves in a familiar situation: on the verge of elimination, headed into Game 6, unsure if this would be the last day of their 2015-16 season. They were a shell of the former revamped team that thunder-punched opponents post-All Star break. There were more questions than answers. There was more doubt than confidence. 

Then the Heat won two straight games and lived to fight another day. They righted their wrongs on the fly. They overcame adversity, albeit against a less talented, but healthier, Charlotte Hornets team. 

"That's when it feels most alive in this league," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said prior to Game 6 against the Hornets. "It's a privilege to play in elimination games."

Well, that's one way to look at it, I guess. 

Pat Riley's "Burn the Boats" motivational tale definitely applies tonight. The Heat will either win the battle and even the series 3-3 or die a painful second-round elimination death — it's pretty black and white. 

The thing is, neither outcome should bring sadness for Heat fans because this season has already been a roaring success considering the massive house-sized boulders the Heat have encountered on the road that led them to where they currently sit — two games from the Eastern Conference Finals. 

The Heat have achieved, at the very least, quite a few wonderful things this season:

— They undoubtedly hit on two rookies. Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson are not only contributors but difference makers, and both will be crucial rotation players for the Heat for years to come. What's more is that both will be bargain-basement deals in a league where filling out rosters in a cost-effective and meaningful way is the difference between a contender and a pretender. 

— The Heat struck gold in Hassan Whiteside. Well, maybe saying the Heat have found a diamond in the rough is a better analogy, because it took some shining to make Whiteside as beautiful (and in a few months, as expensive) as he is today. For a team that has no draft picks to speak of in the foreseeable future, Whiteside is akin to finding, and hitting, on the first overall pick. If the Heat can keep him (and keep him motivated), they will have set themselves up as a guaranteed contender for years to come. 

— Dwyane Wade not only stayed healthy all season, but he's proved he might have a year or two more left in the tank than we thought. Including the playoffs, Wade has played and started in more than 80 games this season. There never was a maintenance plan to get him rest; he came into the year thinned down and ready to rock. If anything, Heat fans got a handful more legendary Dwyane Wade moments.

— Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade finally figured out how to coexist, and along the way Luol Deng found himself the perfect niche, too. It will be interesting to see how Chris Bosh, if he returns in 2016-17, is able to adapt to the style of basketball the Heat undoubtedly need to play if Dragic and Wade are to continue together peacefully. Much will depend on whether the team retains Luol Deng, who is a free agent, but regardless it's pretty evident the structure put in place after Bosh was lost for the year is the brand of basketball the Heat should continue to work on. 

— The Heat weren't only able to rid themselves of any repeater tax penalties moving forward, but they improved their roster and made a deep playoff run in the process — that's the sort of thing that should reassure fans the team always knows what it's doing. Seeing championship players traded away for less than nothing wasn't easy, but in the end it was all for the greater good. The Heat remain one of the top destinations for any and all top free agents that become available. If a player wants to be in Miami, you know Miami can, and will, make it happen. 

So no matter what happens tonight, or over the course of the next few weeks, Heat fans should take solace in the fact that 2015-16 might not exceed expectations but has at the very least met reasonable ones when all factors are taken into account. 

Now let's go kick the Toronto Raptors' asses. 
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.
Contact: Ryan Yousefi