Morant wins Most Improved Player award

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant has been named the 2021-22 NBA Most Improved Player, the league announced Monday.

A three-year NBA veteran, Morant becomes the first player to win the NBA Most Improved Player Award with Memphis. The annual award, which was first presented in the 1985-86 season, is designed to honor an up-and-coming player who has made a dramatic improvement from the previous season or seasons.

Morant received 221 points (38 first-place votes) from a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters. San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray finished in second place with 183 points (20 first-place votes). Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland finished in third place with 178 points (11 first-place votes). P

layers were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote.

A first-time NBA All-Star selection this season, Morant averaged a career-high 27.4 points, 6.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds in 33.1 minutes in 57 games. He also shot a career-best 49.3 percent from the field. Morant, 22, is the third player in NBA history to reach his 2021-22 numbers in points, assists, rebounds and field goal percentage within his first three seasons, joining NBA 75th Anniversary Team members Oscar Robertson and Dwyane Wade.

In addition to an 8.3-point increase in scoring and 4.3 percent improvement in field goal percentage from the 2020-21 season, Morant established career-high averages in minutes, rebounds, steals (1.16 spg), free throws made (5.5), free throws attempted (7.3) and three-pointers made (1.5). He also recorded a career high in three-point field goal percentage (34.4).

Behind Morant, the Grizzlies (56-26) finished with the second-best record in the NBA, matched the franchise’s single-season record for victories and secured their highest playoff seed ever (No. 2 in the Western Conference). Morant was one of three Memphis players to earn votes for the Kia NBA Most Improved Player Award, along with guard Desmond Bane (who finished in fifth place) and forward-center Jaren Jackson Jr. (who received one second-place vote).

Morant, the 2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year, was selected by the Grizzlies with the second overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. He entered the 2021-22 season with career averages of 18.4 points, 7.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds across his first two seasons.

Garland and Murray had great cases to win the award, but it’s hard to argue with Morant getting the award.

The voting results for the 2021-22 NBA Most Improved Player Award are below. The balloting was tabulated by the independent accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP. Complete ballots for each voter will be posted at after the announcement of all end-of-season awards.

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