5 Miami Heat Players Who Absolutely Must Avoid Injury This Preseason

Peter Owen@@Peter_Owen1Correspondent IIOctober 1, 2012

5 Miami Heat Players Who Absolutely Must Avoid Injury This Preseason

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    The Miami Heat will be seeing the best everyone in the league has to offer this season. Defending champions always have a target painted on their back that makes a win against them even more satisfying.

    There is no shortage of teams lining up to take a shot at the Heat.

    The Los Angeles Lakers have re-tooled by adding future Hall-of-Fame point guard Steve Nash and one of the league's top two centers, Dwight Howard. The Chicago Bulls are the wounded giant, still dangerous in the raucous United Center. The Oklahoma City Thunder have the added motivation of being beaten by Miami quite comprehensively in the 2012 Finals.

    That makes it imperative that the Heat stay as injury-free as possible this season. They are going to need everything from everyone if they are to retain the NBA title at the end of the 2013 season.

No. 5: Mario Chalmers

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    Mario Chalmers finally endeared himself to the Miami Heat fans with a series of performances in the NBA Finals that underlined his talents.

    His 25-point game two outburst, including 12 points in the fourth quarter, signaled the change in momentum in the series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    His health this season will be crucial for the Heat as, although they do not really play through their point guard, Chalmers is the best they have. His distance shooting spaces the floor for the Big Three and he is capable of running the offense when asked to.

    Behind him on the depth chart is Norris Cole. His explosiveness and ability to spark the team to life from the bench is a valuable asset for the Heat; starting him in place of an injured Chalmers would sacrifice that advantage.

    Cole is a terrific talent, but is still not quite experienced or polished enough to hold down the starting job in Miami.

No. 4: Chris Bosh

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    Chris Bosh will see the majority of his minutes at center this season.

    It comes after the success the Heat had during the 2012 Finals of playing small ball—an undersized player like Bosh playing center.

    Bosh excelled, shutting down Serge Ibaka and opening up the paint for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to cut to the basket without an opposing center camping out there.

    Bosh spent the offseason recovering from an abdominal strain that affected him in the buildup to the NBA Finals.

    If he can fully recover and continue to be an All-Star caliber big man, the Heat can continue to make small ball their number one option.

    With very few true centers left in the league today, Bosh's prowess outside the paint makes him one of the best small-ball centers around.

No. 3: Ray Allen

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    Ray Allen was the big-name signing for the Miami Heat this summer.

    Leaving the Boston Celtics for the Heat after the season, Allen has been touted as the reason why the Heat are favorites to retain the title they won in June.

    Allen, however, underwent ankle surgery to remove bone spurs. He told media gathered at Miami's Media Day that he still feels sore:

    "I think I have to pay attention to the swelling. There's a minimal amount of swelling in my ankle, which is very good, compared with what I thought it would be."

    The veteran guard will be a great acquisition for the Heat if he can recover and perform at a high level once more.

    The NBA's all-time leading three-point scorer makes Miami's bench one of the more lethal in the league and gives them myriad options for the group of five they play at any one time.

No. 2: Dwyane Wade

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    Dwyane Wade also underwent offseason surgery. Arthroscopic surgery will make him miss some of the preseason and all of training camp as he nurses his body back to health.

    Wade is the Heat player with the most health-related question marks hanging over him.

    Wade himself has said he may not be back to his usual self until the All-Star break in mid-February.

    His career has seen him win two titles, but the in-between time may have done the most damage. From the day Shaquille O'Neal left until the day in July 2010 that LeBron James and Chris Bosh announced they were coming to Florida, Wade carried the Miami Heat all season, every season.

    This may have left his body on the brink of breaking down today as the mileage causes more and more niggling injuries to develop into injuries that require a rest to recover from.

No. 1: LeBron James

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    LeBron James had one of the greatest seasons in basketball history in 2012. Winning the NBA championship with the Miami Heat and Olympic Gold with the USA Men's team on top of being named both Regular Season and Finals Most Valuable Player completed a list of annual achievements only accomplished once before. That was Michael Jordan in 1992.

    James has long been compared to the consensus greatest-ever and now that debate is more closely contested than ever. There really is very little to chose between them.

    For LeBron, an injury-free 2013 season could cement his status as one of the greatest to ever grace the hardwood floors.

    An injury picked up during the preseason could ruin all he dreams of before it truly begins. Although young, LeBron has missed time in past seasons and at times appeared tired. That may, of course, be a side effect of the hectic 66-game schedule we saw a year ago.

    LeBron's health is critical to the Heat's chances this season. Without him, despite the presence of Wade and Bosh, the Heat lack a certain cutting edge.