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Memphis Grizzlies' Ja Morant wins NBA's Most Improved Player Award

Memphis Grizzlies' Ja Morant wins NBA's Most Improved Player Award
Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, shown April 21, 2021, set career highs in points per game (27.4), rebounds (5.7), steals (1.2) and field-goal percentage (49.3%) this season. File Photo by Etienne Laurent/EPA-EFE

April 25 (UPI) -- Memphis Grizzlies star point guard Ja Morant was named the NBA's Most Improved Player on Monday.

Morant became the first Grizzlies player to receive the award. It was his second major award in three seasons, coming two years after he was the league's Rookie of the Year in 2020.

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The 22-year-old Morant is the first player in NBA history to win both Rookie of the Year and Most Improved Player.

"It's definitely big time," Morant said. "This award goes to me, but I feel like it's a team effort."

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Morant set career highs in points per game (27.4), rebounds (5.7), steals (1.2) and field-goal percentage (49.3%) this season. His scoring average was 19.1 points per game last season while playing nearly the same amount of minutes as this season.

In addition to Morant, the Grizzlies had two other players receive votes for MIP. Desmond Bane ended in fifth for the honor, and Jaren Jackson Jr. was 10th.

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The trio led the Grizzlies to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and the second-best record in the league behind the Phoenix Suns. At 56-26, Memphis also equaled the best regular-season mark in franchise history.

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"That pretty much just shows our work ethic, as a whole, as a team," Morant said. "We all push each other. We all want to be better. I thought we all have that 'never satisfied' mindset and that's why you see three guys from the same team receiving votes for this award."

Morant, who was an All-Star this season for the first time, finished with 221 points from a panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters who cover the NBA. He received 38 first-place votes.

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San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray came in second for the award with 183 points (20 first-place votes). Darius Garland of the Cleveland Cavaliers was third with 178 points (11 first-place votes), and Golden State Warriors guard Jordan Poole finished fourth with 131 points (15 first-place votes).

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