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Five Great Things the Miami Heat Has Already Accomplished This Season
Photo by George Martinez

Five Great Things the Miami Heat Has Already Accomplished This Season

The Heat is playing musical chairs for one of the final spots in the Eastern Conference NBA playoffs. With just a few weeks to go in the season, the team could finish anywhere from sixth to 11th. Only eight teams make the playoffs and the Heat's remaining schedule is extremely difficult, with many road games left, including tough matchups tonight at 8:30 p.m. against the Spurs and Friday against the Bucks — both top-flight teams.

But not everything rides on these last few contests. Seventy-plus games tell you a lot about a team, both good and bad. Here are five things the Miami Heat's regular season taught us.

1. Justise Winslow is quite... better. By now you've probably seen the #JustiseBetter hashtag floating around Twitter. If you haven't, here is the gist of it — JustiseBetter than anyone else. Since coach Erik Spoelstra transitioned Winslow from forward to point guard, his play has been amazing. Winslow is completely different from last year. He performed so well in Goran Dragic's absence that Dragic hasn't yet won his job back. And that will likely never happen.

If nothing else comes from this season, finding a role for Winslow is a success. He may not be the best player on a future championship team, but he's proving he can be a viable second or third option on a title contender.

2. Dwyane Wade's retirement tour has been a roaring success. Dwyane Wade's final season could have gone sideways. It could have been derailed by a knee injury. The Heat could have been terrible, well out of the playoff picture by now. Or Wade could have just flat-out stunk.

None of those things occurred. Wade has been fantastic in his role off the bench and has stayed relatively healthy. The Heat is in the playoff chase with a few weeks left in the season. Teams and fans around the league have treated him with respect and honored him along the way.

We couldn't have wished for a better farewell for the greatest player in Miami sports history. Heat fans may want a championship for Wade in June, but no matter what, he has stuck the landing on his way to retirement.

3. Pat Riley opened up about the Miami Heat's future (and his). It's been a puzzling last three years watching Pat Riley and the Heat pretty much fall apart. The team mistakenly let Wade walk in free agency after admittedly being cold to him during free agency talks. Riley agreed to long-term deals for role-player veterans who performed uncharacteristically well on one-year show-me deals, torpedoing the team's salary-cap flexibility in the process.

Nobody knew what the plan was, but this season, Riley set the record straight. He laid out a plan for the team. The fans needed it to set the table for the future.

Riley is giving this championship thing one more try. He gave us a glimpse into his plan to accomplish that in a few sit-down interviews during the last few months. Now, everyone knows what the future holds.

4. Josh Richardson and Bam Adebayo are a lot of fun. Justise Winslow isn't the only Heat player who has taken the next step toward all-stardom. Josh Richardson and Bam Adebayo have also flashed that sort of skill set. The Heat now has a solid young trio of players.

Miami clearly has a supporting cast just yearning for a topnotch player to send it on an NBA championship run. Pat Riley knows this, and that's why he is sticking around.

5. The Heat resisted the urge to tank, and it paid off. Before the season began, a lot of Heat fans would have been fine with the team losing 60 games this season. That might sound terrible, but when a once-in-a-generation talent such as Duke's LeBron-in-training forward Zion Williamson is the prize, being bad one year in the hope of becoming amazing for 15 years doesn't seem so bad.

The Heat didn't go that route, however. Miami worked its way through injuries and turmoil to earn a chance to compete for a title, even if it's as the eighth seed in the East. In Wade's final season, that makes sense.

It was a good move by the Heat and is an even better look for the future. 

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