Harden, LeBron, Davis finalists for MVP award


James Harden and LeBron James are among the finalists for the NBA’s MVP award and Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell are among the finalists for the rookie of the year honor, the league announced on Wednesday.

Most awards will be voted on by a panel of 100 media members. Fans will get to vote for several awards as well. The results will be announced on June 25 during a televised show in Los Angeles.

Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans rounds out the finalists for the MVP award.

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum is the third finalist for the rookie of the year award.

Here are finalists for the other awards:

Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers), Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)

Coach of the Year: Dwane Casey (Toronto Raptors), Quin Snyder (Jazz), Brad Stevens (Celtics)

Most Improved Player: Clint Capela (Houston Rockets), Spencer Dinwiddie (Brooklyn Nets), Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers)

Sixth Man of the Year: Eric Gordon (Rockets), Lou Williams (LA Clippers), Fred VanVleet (Raptors)

Among the MVP candidates, James has a strong argument. The 33-year-old didn’t miss a game for the first time in his career and averaged 27.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 9.2 assists per game while making 54 percent of his shots. James played an NBA-leading 37.2 minutes per game.

Harden, though, was the best player on the NBA’s best regular-season team. The guard helped the Rockets win 65 games while leading the league in scoring (30.4 points) and handing out 8.4 assists per game. He was the No. 1 player on the league’s No. 1 offense.

The strength of Davis’ MVP candidacy is based upon how he put the Pelicans on his back after fellow big man DeMarcus Cousins suffered a season-ending Achilles injury.

In the rookie of the year group, Simmons and Mitchell both put together strong cases. Simmons, who missed his first season in the NBA with a foot injury, had 11 triple doubles this year and ranked fourth in assists per game (8.2). He helped lead Philadelphia to 52 regular-season wins, the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.

Mitchell averaged 20.5 points and helped Utah win a surprising 48 regular-season games.

Tatum is the only rookie whose team is still alive in the postseason, however his playoff resume isn’t factored into the equation as the award is given out for regular-season performance.

Among coaches, Casey helped build a strong bench unit in Toronto and changed the club’s offensive approach en route to an Eastern Conference-leading 59 wins. He was fired after the Raptors were swept by James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the playoffs. Stevens navigated injuries to several key Celtics, including Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, who was lost for the season on opening night due to a leg injury. Snyder’s Jazz won 48 games and grabbed the fifth seed in the West after an offseason in which his team lost its star player (Hayward) to free agency, and relied heavily on the play of rookie of the year candidate Donovan Mitchell

Also playing a big role in Utah’s success was Gobert, who put together a strong case for defensive player of the year despite missing significant time due to a left knee injury. He averaged 10.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game and was the linchpin to Utah’s stifling defense when healthy. He will have competition from Philadelphia’s Embiid (11.0 rebounds, 1.8 blocks) and New Orleans’ Davis (11.2 rebounds, 2.6 blocks).

Oladipo’s candidacy stands out after his fantastic season with the Indiana Pacers. Oklahoma City dealt him to Indiana as part of the Paul George trade and Oladipo thrived in the new environment, averaging 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists for a surprising Indiana team. Capela also presented a strong case after averaging 13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game for Houston and its much-improved defense. Dinwiddie averaged career highs of 12.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 6.6 assists for a Nets club that was more competitive than many predicted.

In the sixth man award vote, Williams should be considered a favorite after posting 22.6 points and 5.3 assists per game for the Clippers. Toronto’s VanVleet was integral for the Raptors’ success, averaging 8.6 points and 2.3 rebounds off the bench. Gordon is the reigning Sixth Man of the Year and looking to join Williams in being a repeat winner. If Gordon were to win, he would be the first back-to-back winner of the award since Detlef Schrempf, who did so in the 1990-91 and 1991-92 seasons for the Pacers.

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