Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant is the recipient of the 2021-22 NBA Most Improved Player Award, the NBA announced today.
The first player in franchise history to receive the NBA Most Improved Player Award, 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). 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.
Morant averaged 27.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.16 steals in 33.1 minutes in 57 appearances (all starts) this season and helped guide the Grizzlies to a 56-26 record, the second-best in the NBA during the regular season. Memphis tied its 2012-13 franchise record for wins and captured the Southwest Division championship, the first division title in franchise history.
In his third NBA season, Morant set career highs for scoring average, rebounds per game, steals per game, field goal percentage (.493) and 3-point percentage (.344). Compared to the 2020-21 season, he raised his field goal percentage by 4.4%, while increasing his shot attempts by 5.4 per game, and upped his 3-point percentage by 4.1% on an additional 0.7 attempts per game.
The 22-year-old was selected as a starter for the 2022 NBA All-Star Game, becoming the second All-Star starter in franchise history and the youngest Grizzlies player to participate in the event.
Morant led all NBA players in points in the paint per game (16.6), becoming the first guard to do so in 25 seasons since data was first tracked, and ranked second in fast break points per game (4.4), helping the Grizzlies lead the NBA in both categories. He set a single-game franchise record with 52 points on Feb. 28 vs. San Antonio, the first 50-point performance in Grizzlies history.
In addition, Morant became the sixth player in NBA history to average at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists in his age-22 season, joining Oscar Robertson (1960-61), Kobe Bryant (2000-01), Tracy McGrady (2001-02), LeBron James (2016-17) and Luka Dončić (2021-22).
Morant has started all of his 187 regular season appearances and has averaged 21.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 7.1 assists in 32.2 minutes through his first three NBA seasons. He was named the 2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year after being second overall in the 2019 NBA Draft following his sophomore year at Murray State University.