Ja Morant recently won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. Morant had an amazing year both accolade-wise and statistically. With so many other players in competition for the award, it begs the question of if he deserved it. Here’s why Morant won it, and why it’s in question.
Is Ja Morant the Most Improved Player?
Why Morant Won It
Ja Morant saw a large increase in his statistical stats from last year to this year. This year he averaged an impressive 27 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists. This is much better than his 19 points and 4 rebounds of last year. Although his assists were higher last year at 7.5, he attempted fewer shots per game. He also saw an increase in all shooting splits. This earned him the honor of being an All-Star starter this year, after not making it at all last year.
Not only did Morant have the stats on his side, but he also had the team success. Last year Morant played 63 games in which he won 33. They finished last year as the 8th seed after winning in their play-in games to advance to the playoffs. This year Morant won 36 of his 57 games to finish as the 2nd seed.
On top of Morant’s skill overall, he has history on his side. Including Morant, 7 of the last 10 most improved players have been quality players turned into first-time All-Stars. This list also includes Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, Victor Oladipo, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler, and Paul George.
Why the Award Is in Question
Morant did have a great statistical season, but other players saw a greater increase in their stats. Dejounte Murray saw an increase from 5 to 9 assists and 16 to 21 points, all on better efficiency. Murray also became a first time All-Star this year. Darius Garland also saw a great increase in his stats, going from 6 to 9 assists and 18 to 22 points. Garland was also a first-time All-Star this year. Morant did have the advantage of a far superior record, but both Garland and Murray did see increased team success as they both made the play-in this year coming off bad records last year.
Morant also did see a great improvement in his record, but credit is also given to the team for that. In fact, the Grizzlies had a 20-5 record without Morant. Although a lot of these teams either had injured stars themselves or had a weak winning percentage. It is still an important stat to keep in mind when looking at Morant’s impact.
Lastly, Morant isn’t the typical prototype player that usually wins this award. This award is usually given to players who don’t come in as top prospects but evolve into quality players. Besides Morant, Ingram and Oladipo are the only other players in the last 10 years to win Most Improved Player after being drafted in the top 5. Morant being the second overall pick makes people wonder if this improvement was an impressive jump or expected growth from an up-and-coming star.
Is Morant the True Most Improved Player?
No matter what you believe, Morant has had an impressive season. He has increased in practically every statistic, won more games, and became an All-Star. Although this jump may have been somewhat predictable for the young star, it doesn’t make it any less impressive. Morant has shown at the age of 22 that he will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
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