COMMENTARY | There are high hopes surrounding the 2013-14 Washington Wizards.
As training camp started, Wizards players have already embraced the optimism surrounding their chances of ending the franchise's six-year playoff drought.
Here are four key training camp questions the Washington Wizards have to answer as they begin the journey to accomplish their postseason aspirations this year:
The Wizards' backcourt is in great hands for the present and the future thanks to the duo of talented guards John Wall and Bradley Beal.
Fresh off a lucrative contract extension, Wall is poised to break into the game's elite at the point guard position. As for Beal, the second-year man is ready to continue his emergence as one of the game's up-and-coming stars at shooting guard.
Unfortunately, both talented players failed to escape the wrath of the dreaded injury bug in 2012-13. Wall missed 33 games last season due to a knee injury. Beal was sidelined by an assortment of foot ailments that cost him 26 games during his rookie season.
If the Wizards are going to fulfill their lofty goal of making the postseason, Wall and Beal will have to do a better job of avoiding the trainer's table in 2013-14.
Who will step up in Emeka Okafor's absence?
As a result of a herniated disc in his neck, veteran center Emeka Okafor is sidelined indefinitely. Needless to say, the veteran's defensive presence and rebounding ability will be sorely missed.
It will be interesting to see how the Wizards cope with Okafor's absence. The first option could be to simply slide veteran big man Nene Hilario from power forward to the center position.
The second possible solution is to insert Kevin Seraphin as the team's starting center while allowing Nene to stay at his natural power forward spot. Seraphin does an adequate job of scoring from inside the post.
However, he's a lackluster defender and abysmal rebounder, which makes him ill-prepared to replace what Okafor brought to the table.
As for the third option in the team's quest to replace Okafor, Jan Vesely has the length to play the center position. Helping to fill Okafor's void could be an opportunity for Vesely to get some playing time as he attempts to shed the draft bust label that's currently attached to his underachieving career.
How the Wizards cope with life without Okafor will go a long way toward to determining whether or not the team is ready to become a playoff team in the Eastern Conference.
What will the rookies bring to the table?
Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr. are two promising rookies who will have the opportunity to earn playing time in their first seasons as NBA players.
Porter's a local kid who plays with a veteran's poise and certainly has the potential to solidify the starting small forward position for years to come. Similar to his sharp-shooting father, Rice Jr. is a marksman who could provide the Wizards with some much needed scoring from the perimeter.
Despite being rookies, both players are more than capable of emerging as key ingredients for the Wizards in 2013-14.
Veterans Al Harrington and Josh Childress were recently given opportunities to resuscitate their NBA careers in Washington D.C.
After dealing with a nasty staph infection for nearly a year, Harrington's healthy and ready to continue his 15-year NBA career. If he's able to make the team, Harrington has the ability to provide the Wizards with a stretch four who's capable of knocking down the 3.
As for Childress, the well-traveled veteran could provide some versatility and defense if he's able to step up in training camp.
Although Harrington and Childress are longshots to make the roster, the Wizards would be ecstatic if one of the veterans could emerge as a surprise contributor this season.
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.
Statistics via NBA.COM.
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