NBA Most Improved Watch: Feb. 17
While Pascal Siakam, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle were the clear-cut winners of the NBA Most Improved Player Award the past three seasons, the 2021-22 campaign has seen multiple rising stars seeking to place amongst the best in the sport.
Many players are deserving of the award, but only three stand out from this sizable talent pool.
Ja Morant - Memphis Grizzlies
Averaging 26.4 points per game, Morant is currently sixth among the top scorers in the league.
Standing at 6’3, the third-year guard is racking up career-best statistics on almost every asset of the game, becoming the primary reason why the Memphis Grizzlies have the third-best record in the NBA.
Last season Morant averaged a solid 19.1 points per game, which was not good enough for the fifty best, but constructed a formidable reputation, and something fans could look forward to.
From delivering hints of flashiness dashing into the paint to out-standing court vision and shooting, Morant has demonstrated to be the ideal modern point guard.
The Grizzlies will make the playoffs once again via Morant’s contributions. This time, however, his growing experience and leadership will play an exponential role on what is the second youngest team in the league.
Miles Bridges - Charlotte Hornets
Talking about young teams, the Charlotte Hornets have a squad with an average age of 24.3, where Miles Bridges has emerged as one of the most versatile wing scorers in the league.
Originally known for his powerful, energetic dunks, Bridges participated in the 2019 NBA Dunk Contest as a rookie. In later years, however, it became evident that Bridges sought to broaden said set of skills and demonstrate a level of versatility and dominance yet to be displayed by his character.
The Hornets swiftly became one of the most entertaining teams in the league with the arrival of Lamelo Ball, but Bridges came up simultaneously providing an efficient structure to the team.
This season, the 23-year-old is averaging 19.7 points per game, eight more points than last year.
While Bridges provides bursts of points and a lower consistency than Morant, the situation in Charlotte favors a player like him, jumping from a role player to one of the top young forwards in the game.
Darius Garland - Cleveland Cavaliers
To everybody’s surprise, the Cleveland Cavaliers are third in the Eastern Conference with 35 wins.
Garland, who was drafted one season after the Cavaliers obtained Collin Sexton, has been outstanding this season in a pairing with Caris LeVert, one of the most underrated backcourts in the league.
The reason for Garland's success apart from his adaptability has been the increment in minutes due to Sexton’s torn meniscus, which will continue to keep him off the court for the rest of the season.
Garland has taken a bigger role and load in the team. He averages a career-best 20 points and eight assists and has proven consistency in one of the most intriguing teams in the NBA.
Juan Mendez is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email @firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Contributors
Second-year / Journalism
Juan S. Mendez is a second-year student from Sogamoso, Colombia majoring in journalism at Penn State University. He is a frequent CommRadio contributor through play-by-play and production for Penn State sports, primarily soccer. As a writer and podcast member, he also contributes in covering the NFL, NBA, international soccer, college sports, and occasional music reviews. Bilingual, and with a substantially dispersed knowledge, Juan intends to work covering multiple sports internationally in English and Spanish at a professional level.