Yes, the Miami Heat Can Return to the NBA Finals if These Five Things Fall Into Place

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Dwyane Wade turns back the clock to 2010.

It's been the same story since 2003: The Miami Heat will ultimately go as far as Dwyane Wade takes the team, or more specifically in the twilight of his career, his knees take him. Wade will have unquestionable motivation this season to show the world he still has a few top-of-his-game years left, and the extent to which he proves that point will determine if the Miami Heat is a true contender or just an above-average-middle-of-the-pack team.

One thing is for sure: Wade looks the part of a man who took his off-season goal of improved fitness and lightening the load on his balky knees seriously. All preseason, he's noticeably looked in better shape than he has since the 2010 season, not coincidentally the last year he seemed consistently explosive. If the Miami Heat challenges for mid-June games this season, it's because Wade has proven 32 is the new 28.

If you can't beat them, join them: Play more like the 2014 Spurs.

First things first. Nothing in the near future will come close to what Heat fans have witnessed the past four seasons. The Heat will never be as dynamic or as flashy. It just isn't realistic. What is realistic is that the team can model itself after the two teams that beat those incredibly dynamic Heat teams -- the Dallas Mavericks and, more recent, the San Antonio Spurs. That's a realistic goal, and that's something Heat players themselves have mentioned heading into the season.

On the surface that might seem crazy, but when you break down what the Spurs really are about, it's not. The Heat, one-to-12, has just as much talent as the Spurs this season. There is no reason a guy like Josh McRoberts can't be the Heat's Boris Diaw this season, if the team uses a system that puts him in the right spots to succeed.

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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.