Grizzlies' Ja Morant Gifts NBA Most Improved Player Award to Desmond Bane

Erin WalshApril 26, 2022

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE - APRIL 09: Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies and Desmond Bane #22 of the Memphis Grizzlies celebrate during the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at FedExForum on April 09, 2022 in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)
Justin Ford/Getty Images

Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant won the NBA's 2021-22 Most Improved Player Award, but instead of keeping the trophy, he gifted it to teammate Desmond Bane, who finished fifth in the voting.

"This award goes to me, but I feel like it's a team effort," Morant said, per Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press.

Ja Morant @JaMorant

he deserve it 💐💯💙 <a href="https://t.co/20Yu5jLW9f">https://t.co/20Yu5jLW9f</a>

Ja Morant @JaMorant

4L gang. you a star ⭐️🤝 <a href="https://t.co/AZHMhgH7U1">https://t.co/AZHMhgH7U1</a>

Instead of being an MIP candidate, many thought Morant should have been an MVP candidate. He averaged 27.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game during the regular season while shooting 49.3 percent from the floor and 34.4 percent from deep.

It was certainly an improvement from the 2020-21 season (19.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 7.4 APG, 44.9 FG%, 30.3 3PT%), but players such as Bane and Jordan Poole, in the eyes of many, should have been the top Most Improved Player candidates.

Bane, the No. 30 pick in 2020, averaged 9.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game last season. This year, he averaged 18.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists.

A year after the Grizzlies finishing 38-34 and lost in five games to the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs, they secured the second seed in the Western Conference with a 56-26 record.