Open practice recap: John Wall shines, Kevin Seraphin improves and more

USA TODAY Sports

The general public was invited to watch the Washington Wizards practice. Can any insight into the state of the team be gleaned from an hour of scrimmages and drills?

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards hosted an open practice that was free to the general public Friday. In a series of scrimmages and drills, the 2013-14 iteration of the team offered fans one of the first chances to see them in action. Although it wasn't explicitly stated, the projected starters in Wall, Beal, Webster and Nene, along with Jan Vesely (filling in for the injured Emeka Okafor) went head to head with the reserves for about an hour.

Some observations:

  • Wall's jumper seems to have not missed a beat from last year. While he never settled for outside shots or even really sought them out, he took jump shots without hesitation and looked good knocking them down. He made a couple of long twos and at least one three pointer. Obviously, there wasn't a box score available for this, but it'd be safe to estimate that he made at least half of his jump shots.
  • As expected, this made him completely unguardable, and he spent the entire night getting to the basket at will, especially in transition. He also showed his usual good court vision and found Webster and Beal for open shots on a few occasions. Eric Maynor isn't a very good defensive player, Kevin Seraphin is probably below average in comparison to a typical NBA starting center and it was just a practice, but if Wall can play at even 80 percent of the level he showed at practice, he's going to be a top 20 player in the league, maybe even better.
  • The only bad thing you could say about his performance is that he appeared to be a bit less controlled in the half court and had a turnover or two as a result, but that could just be a matter of rust due to it being the preseason.
  • Bradley Beal, much like Wall, hasn't missed a beat, but he might be even better this year. In addition to knocking down threes the way other players make layups, Beal looked quicker, more explosive and like he's improved his handle. He looked better handling the ball than he did last year and at least attempted to make a few plays off the dribble that seemed out of the ordinary for him. Even though it didn't translate to much on offense, the improved athleticism and possibly size (he seemed shorter than Wall last year but looked to be an inch or two taller than him at media day) should help him to improve his defense.
  • Speaking of which, even though he was whistled for a foul on it, Beal was responsible for the play of the night, a block from behind on a breakaway dunk in transition by Seraphin. No, Seraphin isn't the most explosive big man in the league, but to see a shooting guard, an undersized one at that, block his dunk from behind was pretty cool. If Otto Porter continues to block shots the way he did in college, Washington could wind up leading the NBA in blocked shots this year despite the lack of a traditional seven footer to protect the rim.
  • Porter was unable to participate in the practice and scrimmages due to his injury, so he did strength and conditioning exercises with a trainer while watching from the sidelines.
  • Nene looked as quick and agile as ever and appears to be pain free. Ted Leonsis spoke about this a bit during his press conference, describing how Nene took the summer off, rested up and is able to run without pain for the first time in ages. He also really went at it with Seraphin in the post on both ends of the court and they match up well together due to their similar combinations of size, strength and agility.
  • Speaking of Seraphin, he's still not exactly Vlade Divac but he looked better passing the ball out of the post. He didn't have any assists or particularly noteworthy plays other than a dunk on Martell Webster (when was the last time we saw him dunk on anyone?), but he managed to successfully pass the ball out of the post and re-establish deep position when he was double-teamed, something that I don't think he managed to pull off once last year. His footwork also looked better and he even showed off a few drop steps and counter moves as opposed to simply tossing up a hook shot as soon as he caught the ball. He also took and made a few foul line jumpers, a shot that rarely worked for him last year but that he's going to need to be able to make if he's going to play major minutes next to Nene or Okafor.
  • Trevor Ariza struggled a bit, missing a few three pointers and not appearing to contribute too much other than good defense on Webster. In his defense, he looks like he's in good shape and probably didn't benefit from playing with the team's reserves considering his limitations as a shot creator.
  • Maynor looked good running the team. As was the case with Ariza, he didn't actually accomplish much in terms of made shots or assists or anything, but he got the second unit into their sets, made the right passes and hit a shot or two of his own when no one else could get anything going. The only problem is that he was playing next to guys like Seraphin, Ariza, Pops Mensah-BonsuGarrett Temple and Glen Rice, Jr., so it's not like he had a lot of options when it came time to make plays.
  • Vesely's level of play was somewhere between his Euroleague performance and last year's, probably closer to how he played in the Euroleague. He didn't hit any jumpers and probably would have been hit with a few cheap whistles if it had been an NBA game, but he did a good job of pursuing rebounds in traffic and using his length and size to sky over everyone else to snag some 50/50 boards. He also had a really nice sequence in which he took his man off the dribble, drove the lane and threw down a nasty dunk. Considering his physical tools -- say what you will about him, I don't think anyone can dispute that he's really fast and can jump really high -- there's no reason he shouldn't be able to do that once a game during the regular season, especially if he's matched up against a center or slower power forward. Nene can be nightmare for those types of players so the Airwolf should have a lot of opportunities this season. It's just going to be a matter of him getting over the hump and seizing them.
  • Al Harrington missed some three-pointers, but otherwise was as expected. He moves his feet well on defense and served as almost a second coach on the floor, helping younger players get into position. Even if he doesn't work out as a player here, his influence on the locker room is going to be positive. He was originally drafted by the Pacers when Bradley Beal was five years old.
  • The rest of the team was unremarkable, which isn't really a bad thing for bit players and deep bench guys. No one appeared out of shape or to be in pain. Trevor Booker sat out for much of the scrimmage like Porter with his injury. Mensah-Bonsu and Childress got some burn and were, well, Mensah-Bonsu (rebounds and little else) and Childress (a few nice cuts to the basket).
For those there, what did you see?

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