The Most Improved Player Award can get tricky. How exactly do you measure what type of leap was more impressive or harder to do? Let's say you go from almost never playing to having a breakout year. That's impressive no? Or what if you had a promising rookie year and then immediately put up an All Star caliber season? That's certainly not easy. How about someone that went from non All Star to All Star? There are only so many of those in the league every year. Then there's the leap from star to superstar. That might actually be the hardest one to make, but you're talking about someone who was already really fucking good. Should that be the most improved?
The answer for 2021-22 is yes. Ja Morant was very good his rookie year, so much so that he won the ROY. He came back in Year 2 and took a step forward. Then in Year 3 he took what I would call that star to superstar leap. A first time All Star and 27.4/5.7/7.4 averages, Morant has been sensational this year. If you want to say he's the MIP, I won't argue against you. He for sure has a case.
But then there's his teammate Desmond Bane. He had one of those Year 2 jumps where he goes from a serviceable rookie to a legitimate stud and starter. Bane's jump played such a huge role in how fast this Grizzlies rebuild has sped up. He doubled his scoring average and is still shooting 43% from three despite an increase in volume while playing in 76 games. If you wanted to argue that Bane was actually the MIP, you'd have a case as well.
So it's great to see that Ja Morant feels that same way. Maybe this happens all the time, but I bet it doesn't. This is why the vibes surrounding the Grizzlies are at an all time high, despite their current 2-2 dogfight of a series. These guys love playing with each other, they play hard, and they talk their shit. What's not to love?
When your leader does shit like this, it matters. A true we not me mentality. I bet if you asked Morant he's happier about Bane's leap than his own progress this season. Ja already knows he's one of the best young players in the league, and I bet he also knows that for the Grizzlies to continue to take steps forward, the development of Bane is pretty significant.
With a lot of NBA players, you'd think this was for clout. But Ja has been nothing but genuine since he entered the league. It's not like he's quiet on social other than this post. I can admit that if LeBron gave this award to like, THT, we all would say the same thing. But with Morant, he has the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. So I will not kill him for this move, in fact I will applaud him for it. A pretty cool gesture from a guy that seems to have things figured out.