Ja Morant was rookie of the year in 2020, vowing he would get better from there.

And he’s done exactly that.

The Memphis Grizzlies guard picked up his second major award in three seasons on Monday, getting announced as the NBA’s Most Improved Player. He is the first Grizzlies player to receive the award – and the first player in league history to have won both rookie of the year and most improved.

“It’s definitely big-time,” Morant said.

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Morant set career bests in scoring (27.4 points per game), rebounds (5.7), steals (1.2) and field-goal shooting (49.3 per cent). His scoring average last season was 19.1 per game, and he made the big jump while playing basically the same amount of minutes.

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Memphis Grizzlies’ Ja Morant broke his own franchise record against the San Antonio Spurs scoring 52 points, dazzling the crowd with some highlight plays

“This award goes to me, but I feel like it’s a team effort,” Morant said.

The Grizzlies had three players get votes for MIP – besides Morant, Desmond Bane was fifth and Jaren Jackson Jr. was 10th. The trio led Memphis to the No 2 seed in the Western Conference and the second-best record in the league behind Phoenix.

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At 56-26, Memphis also tied the best regular-season mark in franchise history.

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Ja Morant sends the crowd wild with this huge slam against the Orlando Magic

“That pretty much just shows our work ethic, as a whole, as a team,” Morant said. “We all push each other. We all want to be better. I thought we all have that ‘never satisfied’ mindset and that’s why you see three guys from the same team receiving votes for this award.”

Morant, an All-Star this season for the first time, was hardly a runaway winner. He finished with 221 points from a panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters who cover the league, with five points awarded for a first-place vote, three for a second and one for a third.

San Antonio’s Dejounte Murray was second with 183 points, and Cleveland’s Darius Garland was third with 178. Murray appeared on 63 ballots, more than anyone else. Garland appeared on 62 ballots.

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Memphis Grizzlies’ Ja Morant put the NBA All-Star Dunk Contest to shame with an incredible in-game reverse slam dunk off the alley-oop assist from the Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young

Morant appeared on 51 of the 100 ballots – but got far more first-place votes than anyone else. He had 38, while Murray collected 20 and fourth-place finisher Jordan Poole of Golden State got 15.

The 22-year-old Morant said he spent this past offseason working to become more consistent from 3-point range and honing his midrange game.

“Those were pretty much the two main areas I worked on this past summer,” Morant said during the televised announcement of the award. “It allowed me to take a big leap in my game, as you can see from my scoring.”

In all, 12 players got votes. Bane had seven first-place votes, Philadelphia’s Tyrese Maxey was sixth and had six first-place votes, and Charlotte’s Miles Bridges was seventh and picked up three first-place votes.

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Watch Memphis Grizzlies’ Ja Morant fire a jaw-dropping no-look dime to wide-open Kyle Anderson for the easy basket

Portland’s Anfernee Simons was eighth, followed by Boston’s Robert Williams III, then Jackson, Dallas’ Jalen Brunson and Miami’s Max Strus.

And now Morant can set his sights on the next big award: league MVP. So far, only one player – Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetoktounmpo – has won Most Improved and then gone on to win that trophy.

“That’s the goal,” Morant said.

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Sourse: skysports.com


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