2022 PBT Awards: Most Improved Player

Grizzlies Most Improved Player candidates Ja Morant and Desmond Bane
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Kurt Helin

1. Ja Morant (Grizzlies)

2. Desmond Bane (Grizzlies)

3. Darius Garland (Cavaliers)

Two Grizzlies at the top of this list is why Memphis is locked in as the No. 2 seed in the West and blew past expectations this season. The hardest leap to make in the NBA is from star to superstar, but Ja Morant made that leap look effortless this season. It wasn’t that Morant scored 27.6 points and dished out 6.7 assists a game, it’s that he took on a much larger role in the offense and increased his efficiency, a rare combination. Bane made a huge leap in terms of both his role and how well he executed it, becoming a key No. 2 option for the Grizzlies.

Darius Garland got pushed into a larger role in Cleveland with Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio out injured and he thrived, looking like the point guard of the future in Cleveland and leading the Cavaliers to the postseason. He just beats out Anfernee Simons, Dejounte Murray, Tyrese Maxey, Miles Bridges and Jordan Poole.

Dan Feldman

1. Ja Morant (Grizzlies)

2. Desmond Bane (Grizzlies)

3. Darius Garland (Cavaliers)

The higher a player climbs, the more difficult – and more significant – improvement becomes. Ja Morant was already pretty good. He wasn’t discussed as potentially the NBA’s best point guard. The NBA’s breakout star has Memphis positioned for a whole other level of success.

Looking like a (good) role player as a rookie, Desmond Bane really expanded his game. No punishing second-year players here. His growth with the ball in his hands warrants commendation. Though Bane wasn’t picked to fit a narrative, it’s really incredible the Grizzlies have the top two candidates for this award.

Darius Garland began to find his footing as a starting NBA point guard last season. This year, he blossomed into a star capable of running an offense that includes the complications of Cleveland’s unusually large frontline. Though Dejounte Murray’s growth was more surprising (and had him in the running for this ballot), Garland gets credit for taking slightly larger strides, even if they were more expected given his overall arc.