Washington Wizards: Five Things to Watch in Preseason Opener

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The preseason begins tonight for the 2013-14 Washington Wizards as they play host to the Brooklyn Nets at the Verizon Center.

With talk about making the postseason for the first time since 2007-08 dominating the headlines, the Wizards will look to turn words into actions as they face a loaded Nets squad that's expected to contend for an Eastern Conference title this year.

Here are five things to watch as the Wizards clash with the Nets in their preseason opener:

John Wall and Bradley Beal backcourt duo

If the Washington Wizards emerge as a playoff team, talented youngsters John Wall and Bradley Beal will have to lead the way.

With both of them beset by nagging injuries in 2012-13, Wall and Beal need to stay healthy this year. Wall's dynamic play-making ability combined with Beal's penchant for scoring potentially gives the Wizards one of the league's best backcourts -- if both of the young stars are able to avoid the dreaded injury bug.

Since it's the preseason, don't expect too many minutes for Wall and Beal against the Nets. However, the tremendous talents of the young, promising duo are still worth watching, even in limited action.

With Emeka Okafor injured, is Kevin Seraphin ready to step up?

Emeka Okafor's herniated disc has opened up a giant-sized hole at the center position for the Wizards. His combination of tenacious rebounding and stifling defense will be difficult to replace.

In Okafor's absence, Kevin Seraphin will get the first opportunity to win the team's starting center job. Seraphin can be a tough guard for the opposition on the offensive end as he utilizes brute force and a nice outside touch to get the best of defenders.

Unfortunately, at the opposite end of the spectrum, his defensive skills have room for immense improvement.

Against the Nets, Seraphin needs to provide some of the offense we're accustomed to seeing while also displaying the ability to contribute on the defensive end as well. If his defense can catch up to his offensive skills, then life without Emeka Okafor won't be so bad for the Wizards.

The make-or-break campaign for Jan Vesely begins

A certifiable draft bust at this point in his career, it's time for Jan Vesely to provide some type of positive return on the Wizards' pricey investment when they decided to select him sixth overall in the 2011 NBA Draft.

If Vesely doesn't turn his potential into production this season, there's a chance that the Wizards will pull the plug on the young big man's roster spot moving forward.

Emeka Okafor's injury will give Vesely the opportunity to make his mark, if he's ready to become a viable contributor in the team's rotation. So against the Nets, Vesely needs to show some type of indication that he's up for the challenge of proving that he's a player in this league before it's too late.

The small forward battle

The Wizards are stocked at the small forward position, possessing a solid combination of youth and experience.

Rookie first-round draft selection Otto Porter could be the guy to emerge at small forward, but he's been limited by injuries so far. Veterans Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster are also around and each player is more than capable of stepping up as the team's starter at the three spot.

Porter won't play against Brooklyn, but there should be plenty of chances for Ariza and Webster to stake their respective claims as the team's starter at small forward.

Will Glen Rice Jr. light it up?

The son of one of the league's all-time premier marksmen, Glen Rice Jr. is ready to carve his own niche as a productive NBA scorer.

Preseason is made for players like Rice; with the veterans playing limited minutes, the youngsters get most of the action.

Tonight will be the beginning of Rice's shot to prove that he's worthy of a spot in the team's playing rotation in 2013-14. Let's see if the talented rookie is up to the task.

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Drexel Perry's a freelance writer who recently moved back to the Washington D.C. area. For additional sports talk, follow him on Twitter @DrexelPerry.

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