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Desmond Bane believes he's Most Improved Player candidate; plans to win 3-Point Contest if invited

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Memphis Grizzlies standout Desmond Bane has made a significant jump in his sophomore season in the NBA.

The 6-foot-5 guard has seen his numbers elevate as he was promoted to the full-time starting shooting guard for the 2021-22 campaign. He’s averaging 17.7 points (an 8.5 bump from his rookie season) and shooting 42% from beyond the arc.

Bane, 23, is a strong candidate for the Most Improved Player of the Year award. But he understands playing in a small market could hurt his chances being that New York Knicks star Julius Randle received the honor last season with not much of an uptick in production compared to his previous seasons.

“A lot of times, they don’t want to give it to guys like myself or Jerami Grant, saying that [our] roles changed or whatever the case may be,” Bane said on the latest episode of the “Posted Up with Chris Haynes” podcast. “But your role changes as you get better. As you improve and as you get better, you get more leeway, you get more opportunities. That’s just how the game goes. They’re not going to give an opportunity to a guy that isn’t ready for it. Everybody out here is trying to win games and feed their families, essentially. So I think that I should definitely be in the conversation. Guys like Jerami Grant, Devonte’ Graham, those are the type of guys that I would’ve given my vote to.”

Desmond Bane of the Memphis Grizzlies and Ja Morant slap hands during a game.
Memphis Grizzlies standout guard Desmond Bane is aiming for an invitation to participate in the All-Star 3-Point Contest and then for the Most Improved Player award. (Justin Ford/Getty Images)

Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins and his staff challenged Bane to not just be a catch-and-shoot player, but to become more rounded. Bane is now putting the ball on the ground and initiating the offense in pick-and-roll settings.

“Getting to the rim [is what I’m doing differently],” Bane said on “Posted Up.” “When I first got here, one of our assistant coaches used to joke with me and ask if I was allergic to the paint just because all I was doing was shooting threes. … But now, I’ve been finishing at the basket. Like [the other] night, I only hit one three, so all my other damage is done around the rim and the paint. And that’s something that I wasn’t doing before.”

The Grizzles are on a roll. Their 11-game winning streak was recently snapped by the Dallas Mavericks, but they’re arguably the most fun team to watch in the league. MVP candidate Ja Morant has a lot to do with the excitement level, but Bane and the other supporting players help produce an enjoyable product.

Memphis (+3300 odds to win the title at BetMGM) is the underdog squad fans are beginning to root for. The Grizzlies play the epitome of team basketball.

But team success aside, Bane has another personal prize in sight: the 3-Point Contest at All-Star Weekend next month in Cleveland. The sharpshooter finished his collegiate career as the 3-point leader at TCU with 249.

“If I get invited, I plan to do it and I plan to win it,” Bane said on “Posted Up.” “It’d be special. Obviously, I came into the league with a reputation as a shooter. To get into a 3-point competition in my second year would be a dream come true and a testament to all of my hard work. I want to be considered one of the best shooters in the world, and the 3-point competition highlights those guys. So getting invited would obviously be a huge compliment and a huge sign of respect, a huge tribute to my hard work and show that everything’s trending in the right direction for me in my career.”

Listen to the full episode of “Posted Up with Chris Haynes” featuring guest Desmond Bane now and subscribe for the latest episodes throughout the season.

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