Williamson, Embiid, Morant ‘under duress’ ahead of 2023 NBA Draft

The 2022-23 NBA season is over, but the offseason is in full swing, with the 2023 NBA Draft just around the corner on June 22. 

As teams look to build upon their existing rosters, there are a handful of players with matters to address this offseason, sooner rather than later.

With that, a trio of basketball stars are featured on Chris Broussard‘s most recent “Under Duress” list, which was revealed on Thursday’s edition of “First Things First.”

3. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

The outlook: Morant is coming off another spectacular regular season on the court, but the attention is elsewhere for the two-time All-Star. Having already been suspended eight games in March, Morant was suspended indefinitely by Memphis in May. Commissioner Adam Silver said that an announcement on the guard’s fate would be made “shortly after” the NBA Finals, which wrapped Monday. Morant will likely be suspended by the league, although it’s unclear for how long.

Broussard’s thoughts: “Ja, take this time [the looming suspension] to get yourself right. You’ve talked about being stressed. You’ve talked about feeling pressure. … You have not blown it, young man. You’re still young. America loves a comeback story. You can still come back and be one of the faces of the league. You can still be an MVP. You can still win championships. But you have to use this time wisely to get yourself right.”

2. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

The outlook: Embiid put together a sensational 2022-23 campaign. Averaging 33.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.7 blocks per game while shooting 54.8/33.0/85.7, he captured his first career NBA MVP. That said, Embiid and the 76ers once again lost in the second round of the playoffs, a round that the franchise hasn’t advanced past since 2001. Furthermore, star guard James Harden appears poised to opt out of his contract for the 2023-24 season and is reportedly mulling a return to the Houston Rockets, whom he played for from 2012-21.

Broussard’s thoughts: “Joel, you’ve been begging for the MVP for the last few years. Now you’ve finally got it. Do you want what comes with it? I’m talking about scrutiny. I’m talking about massive, intense, never-ending scrutiny until you win that championship. Your two rivals have done it; Giannis [Antetokounmpo], MVP, championship; [Nikola] Jokić, MVPs, championship. Joel, it’s not going to end the scrutiny until you win. I’m sorry, you can ask Patrick Ewing. He never even won an MVP and people were always talking about no matter how great he is. … the pressure is on. I do believe in you, but you got to get it done.”

Zion Williamson is under duress this week, as his NBA future remains unclear

1. Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

The outlook: The Pelicans were the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference before Williamson went down with an eventual season-ending hamstring injury last season. At his best, Williamson has played at an All-Star level and flashed superstar potential. With that said, he has appeared in just 114 games over his four-year NBA career due to injury, and controversial relationship rumors have spread online regarding him in recent weeks. New Orleans is reportedly considering including Williamson in a trade package intended to get them in position to select G League star Scoot Henderson in the 2023 NBA Draft.

Broussard’s thoughts: “I know it’s gonna hurt. I know you’re gonna feel like, ‘Man, they don’t believe in me. Man, they don’t think I’m any good anymore.’ You gotta to take all that and realize this could be the best thing for you. It seems like you need a fresh start. You need to get away from New Orleans. Get away from the gumbo, get away from the Jambalaya, get away from the beignets, all of that. Hopefully, you wind up with Michael Jordan [with the Charlotte Hornets]. You wear his shoes, but you also have to take his advice. Get his work ethic. Get his mentality, and you can still be the man everybody thinks you can be on the basketball court. Zion, I do believe in you.”

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