Pat Riley: Heat have “all of the elements of a championship team”

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It was the first of our “51 Questions” NBA season preview series:

Who is the second-best team in the Eastern Conference?

You better have the Miami Heat on your list of potentials (our on Sean Highkin picked them in our post). With a starting lineup of Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh, and Hassan Whiteside — and guys like Justise Winslow and Josh McRoberts coming off the bench — this is a very dangerous team if they come together.

The Big Kahuna for the Heat, Pat Riley, thinks this team is better than just the second best in the East — he thinks they can make a run at the Cavaliers. That’s what he said on the Dan Le Batard Show, as transcribed by Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

“I think this team has all of the elements of a championship team,” he said. “Whether or not you can ever win a championship will depend on a number of factors. I can list them and you can list them. It’s going to come down to this, health,… performance and this guy and that guy. It’s going to come down to can you make shots?…

“I think this team has the opportunity and the possibilities of being a contender. That’s where you start with a team like this. We have an opportunity to create a new first. That’s how I feel about this team…. I’m excited about this season.”

I think Riley hit the nail on the head when he said “health.” Of course, saying “health is key” is true for every team that fancies itself a contender, but the Heat have more reasons to make you cautious. Dragic has battled injuries, Bosh and McRoberts missed most of last season due to injuries, and describing Wade’s knees issues as “chronic” is like saying Guy Fieri is just “annoying.” It’s more than that.

If everything comes together for the Heat — and they have the depth to keep guys’ minutes under control — the Heat could be the second best team in the East.

But they are only contenders if LeBron James and the Cavaliers stumble. There’s still a talent gap in the East from the top spot to everyone else.