The Memphis Grizzlies guard took home his second major award in three seasons on Monday, being announced as the NBA Most Valuable Player. He’s the first Grizzlies player to receive the award – and the first player in league history to win both Rookie of the Year and Most Enhanced Player.
“It’s definitely a big time,” Morant said.
Morant put his career best in scoring (27.4 points per game), rebounding (5.7), stealing (1.2) and shooting (49.3%). He averaged 19.1 goals per game last season, and he made the big jump while playing the same amount of minutes.
“This award is mine, but I feel like it’s a team effort,” Morant said.
The Grizzlies had three players voted for MIP – along with Morant, Desmond Bane placed fifth and Garen Jackson Jr. was tenth. The trio led Memphis to the No. 2 ranked Western Conference and the second-best record in the league behind Phoenix.
At 56-26, Memphis also tied for the best regular season mark in franchise history.
“It 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 had a ‘never satisfied’ mentality and that’s why you see three guys on the same team getting votes for this award.”
Morant, this season’s All-Star and for the first time, wasn’t a runaway winner. He finished with 221 points from a panel of 100 sports writers and broadcasters covering the league, with five points for a first-place vote, three for second and one for third.
San Antonio’s Dejaunt Murray came second with 183 points, and Cleveland’s Darius Garland came third with 178. Murray appeared on 63 ballots more than anyone else. Garland appeared on 62 ballot papers.
Morant appeared on 51 of the 100 ballots – but he has received far more number one votes than anyone else. He had 38, Murray had 20, and fourth-placed Jordan Bull of Golden State had 15.
The 22-year-old said he spent post-season working to become more consistent from the 3-point range and sharpen his mid-range play.
“Those were pretty much the two main areas I worked in this past summer,” Morant said during the award’s TV commercial. “It allowed me to make a huge leap in my game, as you can see from my recordings.”
In all, 12 players got votes. Bane got seven first-place votes, Tyrese Maxey of Philadelphia finished sixth and got six first-place votes, while Charlotte Miles Bridges finished seventh with three first-place votes.
Portland’s Anverne Simmons ranked eighth, followed by Boston’s Robert Williams, third, then Jackson, Galen Bronson of Dallas, and Max Strauss of Miami.
Now Morant can set his sights on the next big prize: the best player in the league. So far, only one player – Giannis Antikonmo of Milwaukee – has won the MVP award and has gone on to win that trophy.
“That’s the point,” Morante said.