Either James Harden, LeBron James or Anthony Davis will be this year's NBA MVP, it was revealed Wednesday night on TNT prior to Game 2 of the Western Conference finals between Golden State and Houston.
Harden, widely considered the favorite to take home the hardware, led Houston to a franchise-best 65 wins, but James put together what was arguably the best season of his career while Davis kicked his game into another gear following DeMarcus Cousins' season-ending injury in January.
The finalists for the rest of the NBA's major regular-season awards — Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year and Most Improved Player — were also announced during the hour-long special. The awards were voted on by a panel of media members before the start of the playoffs.
The Rookie of the Year finalists are Utah's Donovan Mitchell, Philadelphia's Ben Simmons and Boston's Jayson Tatum. While Simmons and Mitchell are the two favorites, all three played huge roles on their respective teams in both the regular season and the playoffs. Though postseason success has no impact on the award, Tatum's Celtics are just two wins away from a trip to the NBA Finals.
The award winners will be revealed at the second annual NBA awards show on June 25. The event will take place in Santa Monica, Calif. and will air live on TNT.
The rest of the award finalists are below:
Coach of the Year
- Boston's Brad Stevens - The mastermind behind the Celtics' continued success, Stevens shockingly received no votes from his peers for the National Basketball Coaches Association's Coach of the Year award, which was announced last week.
- Utah's Quin Snyder - Despite the offseason departure of franchise cornerstone Gordon Hayward, Snyder's Jazz finished with 48 wins and as the No. 5 seed in the West.
- Toronto's Dwane Casey - Though he was fired last week after being swept by Cleveland for the second year in a row, Casey led the Raptors to a franchise-best 59 wins and the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Defensive Player of the Year
- New Orleans' Anthony Davis - The MVP candidate led the league in blocks (2.57 per game) and ranked 15th in steals (1.53 per game)
- Utah's Rudy Gobert - The Jazz boasted an NBA-best defensive rating of 97.5 in the final 38 games of the season after Gobert returned from a knee injury.
- Philadelphia's Joel Embiid - The Sixers had a defensive rating of 99.9 with Embiid on the court and 111.1 with him off.
Sixth Man of the Year
- Houston’s Eric Gordon - Gordon, last season's Sixth Man of the Year, saw both his scoring average (18 points per game) and field goal percentage (42.8%) increase this season.
- Los Angeles Clippers’ Lou Williams - Though he started 19 games due to the Clippers' onslaught of injuries, Williams averaged a career-high 22.6 points this season.
- Toronto’s Fred VanVleet - The second-year guard was a pivotal part of Toronto's second unit, which ranked first in the league with a net rating of plus-8.3.
Most Improved Player
- Indiana's Victor Oladipo - Nobody in the league improved as much as Oladipo, who bounced back from a tough season in Oklahoma City to emerge as a full-blown All-Star.
- Houston's Clint Capela - The X-factor to Houston's dominance, Capela has quickly emerged as one of the NBA's best big men.
- Brooklyn's Spencer Dinwiddie - Playing for the lowly Nets kept him out of the national spotlight for much of the season, but Dinwiddie's improvements — he upped his scoring average from 7.3 points per game to 12.6, for starters — were significant.