Ja Morant was already plenty good.
But the third-year pro, who earned Rookie of the Year in 2020, made a leap too big this season for the NBA to ignore. The Memphis Grizzlies guard was named the league's Most Improved Player on Monday. Morant beat out San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray and Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland, who were fellow finalists for the award.
Shortly after winning the award, Morant posted on social media that he gave the trophy to teammate Desmond Bane, who was one of seven players to receive first-place votes for the award.
"He deserve it," Morant wrote on Twitter.
It didn't take long for Bane to find his gift.
— Desmond Bane (@DBane0625) April 26, 2022
How Morant won MIP
After averaging 19.1 points while shooting 44.9% from the field and 30.3% from 3-point distance last season, Morant made significant leaps in all three categories this season, averaging 27.4 points, 6.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds and shooting 49.3% from the field and 34.4% from 3-point distance.
His Grizzlies also improved from 38-34 and the No. 8 seed in the West last season to 56-26, good for the No. 2 seed in the West and the second-best record in the NBA. Memphis is currently tied 2-2 in its first-round playoff series with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Morant responded to news of the award on Twitter Monday evening.
I believe in everyday life you want to be better at your profession & as a person all the time. It becomes a constant grind, so to receive this award is a true testament for the work I put into my craft on a daily basis and for that I’m truly grateful. 🙏🏽 MIP
— Ja Morant (@JaMorant) April 25, 2022
Morant earned 38 of 100 first-place votes for the award, while Murray tallied 20 and Garland 11. Golden State's Jordan Poole, Bane, Philadelphia's Tyrese Maxey and Charlotte's Miles Bridges also received first-place votes.
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) April 25, 2022
Morant's effort this season also earned him his first All-Star bid in February.