Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant has won the 2021-22 Kia NBA Most Improved Player award in a season where he averaged a career-high 27.4 points, 6.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds in 33.1 minutes in 57 games. Morant became the first Memphis player to win this award in franchise history.
Morant won 221 points with 38 first-place votes from a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters. Whereas San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray finished second in the award race with 183 points with 20 first-place votes. Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland finished in third place with 178 points and 11 first-place votes. Players were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote.
The 2021-22 #KiaMIP is… Ja Morant!
— NBA (@NBA) April 25, 2022
The Murray State alumn also made his maiden all-star game selection and led his team to an incredible second-seeded finish in the western conference above teams like the Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks. He also shot a career-best 49.3 per cent from the field.
The 22-year-old has seen an 8.3-point increase in scoring and a 4.3% improvement in field goal percentage from last season. He also achieved 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 maintained a career-high in three-point field goal percentage of 34.4%.
Ja Morant also became the third player in NBA history to achieve his last season numbers in points, assists, rebounds and field goal percentage within his first three seasons. Now he is part of an elite club with NBA 75th Anniversary Team members Oscar Robertson and Dwyane Wade.
“Ja Morant isn’t the Most Improved Player,” Green
But Ja Morant’s win has also sparked some debates as Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green has expressed his disagreements regarding the award. He wanted his teammate Jordan Poole to win the MIP award as he feels Morant is an MVP contender. “The award is called the most improved,” Green said.
“Not who had the best year. That’s the MVP. A lot of times we get it confused. No disrespect to Ja Morant, but Ja is an MVP candidate. Ja Morant isn’t the Most Improved Player. He was f–king incredible last year. When you look around, the most improvement has been Jordan Poole and that goes without saying. He is the most improved.”