NEW YORK – Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant has been named the 2021-22 Kia NBA Most Improved Player, the NBA announced today.
A three-year NBA veteran, Morant becomes the first player to win the Kia NBA Most Improved Player Award with Memphis. The annual award, which was first presented in the 1985-86 season, is designed to honor an up-and-coming player who has made a dramatic improvement from the previous season or seasons.
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.
A first-time NBA All-Star selection this season, Morant averaged a career-high 27.4 points, 6.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds in 33.1 minutes in 57 games. He also shot a career-best 49.3 percent from the field. Morant, 22, is the third player in NBA history to reach his 2021-22 numbers in points, assists, rebounds and field goal percentage within his first three seasons, joining NBA 75th Anniversary Team members Oscar Robertson and Dwyane Wade.
In addition to an 8.3-point increase in scoring and 4.3 percent improvement in field goal percentage from the 2020-21 season, Morant established 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 recorded a career high in three-point field goal percentage (34.4).
Morant posted six games with at least 40 points after having one 40-point game over his first two regular seasons. He set the Grizzlies’ single-game regular-season scoring record in back-to-back games, first with 46 points against the Chicago Bulls on Feb. 26 and then with a career-high 52 points against the Spurs on Feb. 28. As part of his success as a scorer this season, the 6-3 Morant led the NBA in points in the paint per game (16.6).
His honors this season included earning a starting spot in the 2022 NBA All-Star Game. Morant also was named the NBA Western Conference Player of the Week in consecutive weeks (Jan. 3 and Jan. 10), the first two such honors of his career. He became the first player in Grizzlies history to win the award in back-to-back weeks.
Behind Morant, the Grizzlies (56-26) finished with the second-best record in the NBA, matched the franchise’s single-season record for victories and secured their highest playoff seed ever (No. 2 in the Western Conference). Morant was one of three Memphis players to earn votes for the Kia NBA Most Improved Player Award, along with guard Desmond Bane (who finished in fifth place) and forward-center Jaren Jackson Jr. (who received one second-place vote).
Morant, the 2019-20 Kia NBA Rookie of the Year, was selected by the Grizzlies with the second overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. He entered the 2021-22 season with career averages of 18.4 points, 7.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds across his first two seasons.
Morant will be presented with a special edition 75th Anniversary commemorative trophy today in celebration of the honor, gifted in addition to the Kia NBA Most Improved Player Award trophy, which he will receive later. The commemorative trophy, composed of a solid crystal basketball, features the NBA 75 logo 3D laser etched and suspended within its center.
The voting results for the 2021-22 Kia NBA Most Improved Player Award are below. The balloting was tabulated by the independent accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP. Complete ballots for each voter will be posted at PR.NBA.com after the announcement of all end-of-season awards.
Below is the all-time list of winners of the Kia NBA Most Improved Player Award.