Memphis Grizzlies point guard Yes Morant honored as the NBA’s most improved player after All-Star years

Yes Morant was Rookie of the Year in 2020, promising he would get better from there. And he has done exactly that.

The Memphis Grizzlies guard received his second major award in three seasons Monday and was 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 win both this year’s rookie and most improved player.

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

Morant put career-best in scoring (27.4 points per game), rebounds (5.7), steal (1.2) and field goal shooting (49.3%). His scoring average last season was 19.1 per game and he made the big leap while playing pretty much the same number of minutes.

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

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

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

“It pretty much just shows our work ethic, as a whole, as a team,” Morant said. “We’re all pushing each other. We all want to get better. I thought we all have the ‘never satisfied’ mindset and that’s why you see three guys from the same team receive 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 sports writers and TV stations covering the league, with five points awarded for a first-place finish, three for a second and one for a third.

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

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

The 22-year-old Morant said he spent this past season working on becoming more consistent from the 3-point range and refining his midrange play.

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

In total, 12 players received votes. Bane had seven first-place votes, Philadelphia’s Tyrese Maxey was sixth with six first-place votes, and Charlotte’s Miles Bridges finished seventh with three first-place votes.

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

And now Morant can look to the next big prize: the league’s MVP. So far, only one player – Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo – has won Most Improved and then won the trophy.

“That’s the goal,” Morant said.

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