Ja Morant gifts Most Improved Player Award to teammate Desmond Bane


Grizzlies All-Star Ja Morant took home some well-deserved hardware Monday, receiving the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award for the 2021-22 season. The former Rookie of the Year took a major leap this season, improving his scoring average by over eight points per game (19.1 to 27.4) while leading the Grizzlies to a franchise-best 56 wins and their highest playoff seed (second in the Western Conference) in team history.

While most saw the 22-year-old as a worthy choice (he received 38 first-place votes, almost double the amount garnered by runner-up Dejounte Murray), others would argue the spirit of the award is to honor underappreciated players who aren’t necessarily household names, disqualifying established stars like Morant from consideration. Morant also missed considerable time, logging 25 absences due to injury and a two-week bout with COVID.

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Deserving or not, Morant declined the award, instead having his Most Improved Player trophy sent directly to Desmond Bane’s home in recognition of his teammate’s breakout season (18.2 points per game, 46.1 field-goal percentage).

Originally chosen 30th overall in the 2020 NBA Draft, Bane is playing some of the best basketball of his career right now, netting a combined 60 points over his last two games including 36 (accomplished on 11-of-18 shooting with eight three-pointers) in Saturday’s loss to Minnesota. Bane did receive seven first-place votes for Most Improved Player, ultimately finishing fifth behind Morant, Murray, Cavs guard Darius Garland and Golden State’s Jordan Poole. All tied at two, the Grizzlies will look to take control of the series when they return home for Tuesday night’s Game 5 with tipoff slated for 7:30 PM ET at FedEx Forum.

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